How does your teen’s online life make you feel? Clueless? Scared silly? Longing for the days of landline-only communication, or—at the very least—crappy dial-up connections that kept the Web in a separate, otherworld sphere?
Earlier this week, Liz Perle, my former colleague and the current editor of HuffPost Teen, posted an incredibly insightful and from-the-heart piece urging parents to face these fears head-on, so that they can ultimately learn a little more about why many of those worries might be misguided. To summarize, in her own words:
Don’t be frightened by your teen’s love for technology. Let them teach you how and why they’re using it—and maybe you’ll get a glimpse into the engaged, energetic and complex teenage online world I have the privilege of seeing every day… It’s not unusual for teens to be deeply involved in large, online communities that their families know nothing about, and this makes me sad. I want all parents to know how amazing, eloquent and popular their teenagers are in a world they’re often too scared to be a part of.
We highly suggest you click through and read her article on the 5 Myths About Teens and Technology Every Parent Should Ignore—it’s a must for all parents and teachers. And even if you don’t agree with each and every point, we think you’ll come away with a somewhat calming sense of: It’s not all bad. It’s just different.
Yes, teens today might be glued to their phones, but behind those phones (or those computer screens) are people. They’re forming communities online that can help them feel empowered and accepted while staying true to their natural, but still developing, identities. And of course you can argue that the lack of face-to-face communication is turning them into zombies, but you can also choose to acknowledge that they’re gaining an unprecedented level of support and confidence from people with similar interests at an early age—while at the same time learning to respectfully (we hope!) engage with those whose experiences and perspectives differ from their own.
We’re not saying they should be texting all through a family dinner, or that screen time should be unlimited. We’re just saying that we kind of love Liz’s call to arms to make an attempt to truly “get” how they’re using their time online or on their phone—so that we don’t diss our teens by devaluing the potentially meaningful friendships they’re forming, or the positive ways in which they’re expressing themselves.
So please read the full article, then let us know your thoughts. What concerns you most about your teen’s tech use? How have you tried to help them balance their online and real lives?
For more help understanding how teens use tech, check out these Teenbeing posts: