Positive Social Media for Teens
Cyberbullying, drama queens as far as the eye can see, and attention spans are shorter than they’ve ever been before! If you’ve listened to the news lately, then it would seem like this is all that social media has to offer teens these days. We gasp at the naked selfies and clutch our pearls at how self-centered our youth is becoming.
Are social networking sites really just one psychological threat after another? Have we become a bit too overprotective, when there are actually really great aspects to social media that many of us miss in the maelstrom of bad press?
The World Has Become Smaller
People argue that social media makes teens ego-centric, and that may be true to an extent, but there is a flip side as well: they have greater access to people from other cultures. For the longest time, people who lived on the other side of the world were little more than a stereotype in the average young person’s mind. Nowadays, teens can connect with people from all over the globe, which can greatly broaden their horizons.
As a family, one of the best ways to bring up kids who are culturally sensitive is to expose them to a wide variety of people. Social media makes this easy, and helps the miles and oceans between us shrink as we become a more global community.
Keeping Connections Strong
For those who graduated high school and college before the advent of social media, wouldn’t it have been nice to keep in touch with all the friends we made? Sometimes we lose friends simply because of the inconvenience of reaching out. Social media allows us to do that effortlessly, and more people than ever are still connected with the kids that they grew up with. Teens these days can make life-long friends and reconnected whenever they would like.
There is Help When You Need It
In an ideal world, a teen would always feel comfortable talking with a family member about a personal problem, but this isn’t always the case. Instead, many young people who face tough or embarrassing problems feel better after venting to a faceless crowd. Often, they’ll be comforted by their peers immediately. This kind of instant gratification can be a positive thing when a child feels disconnected and needs to be reminded that they’re loved.
Granted, the trade-off here is privacy. However, if someone genuinely needs help, should they really suffer alone? You may have noticed people who have benefited greatly from crowd-funding during times of need; none of this would have been possible without social media. Its viral nature can certainly be used for good.
Teens Now Have a Voice
In the past, media was largely controlled by adults and their interests, and there was rarely any way for a young person to express themselves to a vast audience without censorship. Thanks to modern social media, teens can express their opinions about politics, philosophy, and society on a giant digital soap box. This allows them to feel like their thoughts matter during that critical period of emotional growth that they experience during their young adult years.
Often, young people are at the root of major social revolutions, and now they have a much easier time connecting and organizing with other like-minded people who want to change the world.
If nothing else, then social media has helped teenagers feel more self-confident and outgoing, at least on the surface. According to CNN, 28% of teens surveyed feel that social media makes them more outgoing, and 29% report that it makes them less shy.
In the early days of the Information Age, parents were often paranoid that their Internet-obsessed children were going to become socially-inept shut-ins who would never see the light of day ever again. However, the opposite has been true in a lot of ways. Social media allows teens to test the waters and learn social skills in a less threatening environment, and thus many otherwise shy kids may come out of their shells and make new friends. For those who find face-to-face interaction intimidating, social media can be a godsend.
Now, is the world of socially media a Utopian paradise that has made our society better in every aspect? Certainly not. There are still glaring problems, like privacy issues, the endless distractions, and massive amounts of “trolling” that have no real-world equivalent. However, as with any new technology, people will learn to adapt over time—especially considering the multitude of positive things that social media has to offer.