Guest Author - Michelle Anne Cope
Connecting with others, using some form of communication, has been in existence since the beginning of time. Connecting and communicating through social media is still fairly new. The template of social media is still changing. It can be confusing at times, and does have both good and bad points. It's also a very big part of teenage life. Infinity is where social media communication is taking us. New applications and websites are being developed and created everyday, many of them by teens. For some of us who are adults, teenagers are the best resource to get help in keeping up with all this new-fangled technology! Maybe you are able to relate to that last statement or find it funny, but, it's also true. As parents and adults, we don't just need to, we have to learn how to become a part of this world. No invite is necessary.
Communication is how we share and exchange information with others. The Internet and social media has changed both the speed and style of today's communication. We now have instantaneous delivery of email, texts, chatroom messages, page posts, tweets, videos, and photos.
As adults, some of us may occasionally or regularly use social media. To be fair, some adults may have no interest in social media. And that same preference could hold true for some teenagers. However, more and more teens are using their phones, tablets, and computers to connect with their family, friends, and unfortunately—strangers. Yes, we can trust teens, but we can't always trust everyone they might meet online. More than likely, the news has already inundated many of us with horrible and heart-breaking stories about the perils of social media. Maybe we’ve talked to our teens, explained the dangers, and they listened — that’s a good thing. But, there is more to the conversation of social media.
It’s an absolute that our teens physical safety is very important. Yet, what about the harm social media could do to a teen's psyche and self-image? Many teens can get caught up in trying to fit in and be popular in and outside of school. Although this is not a new concept or problem, teens now have the added stress of worrying about what others are saying not only to them, but also about them. Online, Instant, Viral and Forever! A bad selfie, an argument with a friend, a bad grade, a breakup . . . all these things can and will be posted on some social media site. If not posted by teens themselves, posted by their friends, acquaintances and non-acquaintances.
One part of the social media world is a game to collect as many followers as you can. It helps you get more views and more "Likes". Who doesn't love being liked. However, this game can also be tricky. There may be others who don't want anyone else to get a higher “Like” count than they are getting. They could try to purposely lower the count with untrue and hurtful comments. There are bullies everywhere and social media can make it easier for them to be anonymous. There is also the great possibility that due to the pressure and stress of fitting in and being popular, bullying can come from unsuspecting individuals.
As parents and adults, it’s our job to help our teens learn, grow and adjust to new situations and experiences. Their self image is important to them and to us. Social media can instantly boost up or bump down that image. This can happen with just one post or comment. Teens need our help to wade through the false statements, gossip, and hurtful comments. They might see everything in their life as being right now or never. As adults, we know that things change. We just have to be patient with our teens. The realization of what is really important, can sometimes take time. Social media is just another area of teenage life where the love, support and reassurance of parents and adults is needed and necessary.
Sharing information with each other will always be essential. Social media communication methods will continue to change. How do we keep up with what teens are saying, what they are seeing, and what they are being told in the world of social media? We invite ourselves in. We register accounts for the same pages and services they are visiting and using. We friend them and we follow them. Then, we watch. When needed, we react with hugs, nurturing and positive conversations. It’s a learning curve for them and for us.
Communication, both virtual and cyber, is something we will definitely talk about again. If you would like to join or start a conversation about social media, please do so in the Teen Site Forum. Your experience or questions could help others. You can also send your comments or questions directly to me.