Updated: Feb 2, 2020
Recently I came across a Pew Reseach Center research that was published in two articles; the first named Teens, Social Media & Technology 2018 and the second named Teens’ Social Media Habits and Experiences. The research, which focused on teens ages 13–17 reveals interesting information, which, I believe, we as parents should be aware of:
Only 37% of teens think that online social media helps find trustworthy information
The number one online social media platform kids are using YouTube today. 85% of the teens are using this platform. Instagram (72%) and SnapChat (69%) aren’t far behind. Interesting to know that Facebook which most of the teens’ parents are using, isn’t attractive for teens with only 51% of use, and their numbers are on a decline.
95% of teens have a smartphone or access to a smartphone. It means that almost every child in your child’s class has a smartphone — is that true for you? It is true in my children reality. 81% of teens believe social media helps deepen their friendship. Also, 43% experience pressure to only post content that makes them look good to others. It’s essential for us as parents, to understand that for our children, social media is their social life, and this is the platform they learn to socialize. Therefore, we need to acknowledge it and support them in the best way to experience positive socialization through online social media. Online groups that focus on hobbies, including gaming, are the most popular among teens with 41% using it, and the second popular is humor. When going a little deeper with those numbers, we can see that boys prefer gaming (54%) and humor (41%), while girls prefer humor (39%) and pop culture (31%). It’s important to understand what is your child interest when they are online, to learn and talk with them about the messages they receive on this content.
Only 37% of teens think that online social media helps find trustworthy information. I have mixed feeling about this one. In one hand it shows that they understand that not everything they are reading or viewing is true, real or a fact. On the other side, there is a more significant chance that even if they are viewing a trusted resource, they might still not see it as trustworthy. As a parent, it emphasized the importance of showing my children what the trusted website I use is, and also how you can decide if a site is trustworthy or not.
Did any of those numbers surprise you? Were you aware of this happening at your home already? As a parent, I know how much parents like data. I also want to think about what information we can pull behind those numbers? What can we learn from those numbers?
My main thought I had after seeing those number, is the high chances teens have to be exposed to sexually explicit content in their daily life.
They have a smartphone, and they have access to the internet everywhere, and the two leading platforms they are using are all about visual; YouTube and Instagram. Understanding this brings me to the realization, and this is what I always tell parents, the question is not if my child will be exposed to sexually explicit content, but actually, when would my child be exposed to sexually explicit content? And knowing that I, as a parent, will probably not be next to him when they watch it, my philosophy is that once you give a smartphone, this is when you should have your first (and not only) conversation with your child about sexually explicit content.
I did it with my child, and yes, I was embarrassed at the beginning, and he looked at me with a look of “What do you want from my life?” But it was vital for me to open that conversation, to let him know that I’m aware, and I’m available for any question he might have. I keep checking with him once in a while to remind him that I care and that I’m open for him to have this conversation, anytime, anywhere.