Ways to Manage Teenage Use of Social Networks

Teenage use in social networks often plays an important role in the evolution of this stage. The risks are significant. Thus, education is the best preventive intervention in situations such as bullying.
Ways to Manage Teenage Use of Social Networks

Last update: 20 May, 2021

Today’s article is about the teenage use of social networks. This is because anything published there has a great influence on the social course. Very few people nowadays don’t have the latest-generation cell phone. This is one of the best-known smartphones. Today’s article will deal with the teenage use of social networks. In many cases, it’s already a complicated stage due to other circumstances. What social networks do is increase the difficulty. Can use turn into abuse?

A pediatrics association, the AEPED, explains that proper teenage use of social networks can circumvent its dark side. That is, the part in which bullying, grooming, or sexting affect young people. The association indicates that “5.8 percent of adolescents between the ages of 12 and 16 years old occasionally experience harassment on social networks. 1.8 percent experience it frequently”.

How to minimize these risks? Well, this is where parents, educators, and any professional who’s in contact with adolescents come into play. In this regard, an intelligent intervention involves education, never prohibition.

It isn’t a matter of keeping teenagers away from social media but about making them aware of the implications of their actions on these sites. In terms of bullying, the focus of the intervention should be on the bullies. They must be re-educated, not the victims.

“People who smile while they’re alone used to be called insane, until we invented smartphones and social media.”

-Mokokoma Mokhonoana-

Two people using their phones.

Access control

As the AEPED said, why should children under 14 years of age be given the latest-generation cell phones? The important thing at this stage of their lives isn’t to be glued to a screen. They should be interacting with others in order to develop their communication skills. A cell phone that allows them to call home when they need to is enough.

These aren’t compelling reasons to give teenagers the latest-generation cell phones. Requests for racy photos, images uploaded to social networks with insulting comments, access to adult social networks or videos they shouldn’t see… The way to prevent teenage exposure to these is quite simple: don’t give teenagers the latest-generation cell phones, as they don’t need them.

The AEPED also explains that “Approximately 80 percent of cyberbullying cases are the digital extension of face-to-face bullying.” However, this is only possible if teens have access to social networks. It wouldn’t occur otherwise. Also, not growing up with this type of technology is positive, as nobody who’s never used it will notice the lack of it. They won’t be glued to a screen and will do more stimulating activities instead.

The teenage use of social networks

Why allow the teenage use of social networks? Why give a 13-year-old a cell phone and allow them access? Esther Aren (pediatrician at the Adolescent Medicine Unit of La Paz and expert in new technologies of the AEP) explains that “To register to WhatsApp, you have to be 16 or older. To register on Instagram, you have to be 14 or older”. So what’s going on? Well, it’s a formality anyone can override. This is because these companies aren’t really checking new users’ age before they give them an account.

Parents are the ones who ultimately have to play this role. The benchmark set by the big companies, as silly as it may seem, gives parents a valuable resource for setting boundaries with their children. In addition to educating in relation to the teenage use of social networks, they can also emphasize respect for the rules.

Paying attention to teenage use of social networks and cell phone abuse

It’s essential for parents to be aware and pay attention to the possible misuse of cell phones in those teenagers who are over 14 years old, especially if they already have access to some social networks. You’re probably already aware of how time goes by quickly when you’re in front of a screen. Thus, they must detect if the youngsters have been on the cell phone for half an hour after dinner or if they’re not coming to the table because they’re glued to the screen.

Furthermore, teens should keep their cell phones where they can’t access them when they’re not using them. At least in the beginning, so that later they’ll be able to regulate its use when they’re away from home.

Parental controls on cell phones can also be a good idea to ensure they’re doing it right. However, there won’t be a problem and may not even be necessary as long as they provide proper technological education. Trust is key.

A girl looking at her phone.

Communication is important to detect cases of harassment

Trust and communication work together. Thus, it’ll be much easier for adults to identify a problem and intervene if communication channels remain open. What’s the proper course of action? Bring the situation to the attention of the local police department.

Why is it so important for children under 14 years of age to have limited access to the Internet? Because their emotional resources are also limited. In this context, they could find themselves in situations that exceed, by far, their ability to cope. In this regard, it’s also good to know the law. There are laws set in place that apply if the minors are 14 years old or older. This age is also important in terms of responsibility before the law.

Young people learn to be in contact with technology from a young age — when their parents play a video or game on their cell phone to keep them entertained from a young age. Later on, the punishment is to take them away from technology. These two approaches are much more common than technical education, though. In this regard, education in teenage use of social networks is a challenge, perhaps the biggest for parents with children at this stage.

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