Good News: Kids Generally Resilient in the Face of Online Risks

by Anna Hughes on April 4, 2018
If you’re the parent of a teen who has internet access, you know the dangers. Cyberbullies. Explicit images and videos. Trolls. Solicitations from strangers. It’s enough to make any parent want to pull the plug on the internet entirely – but this generation is growing up in a digital culture, and it’s impossible to ignore it entirely. However, there’s good news – research suggests that your kids probably have more resilience against these online threats than you’ve been giving them credit for.

Harmful Effects Are Limited

Screen time

While teens may encounter common online hazards, they’re also pretty good at coping with them.

recent study from the University of Central Florida, Pennsylvania State and Ohio State reveals some interesting things about how teens cope with the dangers they encounter online. The research shows that it’s true that teens do regularly encounter many of the online risks that you worry about.

However, the study also shows that the negative effects of encountering such dangers are limited. In fact, in most cases, any negative emotions that the teens being studied experienced as a result of their online interactions had faded within a week. Much has to do with how your kids use their screen time.

Extreme Cases Aren’t the Norm

You’ve no doubt heard some terrifying stories in the news. Teens cyberbullied into committing suicide. Teens groomed by predators. Teens engaging in risky behaviors with devastating consequences.

It’s not that these stories are untrue. These things can and do happen. But research suggests that these are extreme cases, not the experience of the average teenager. As a parent, it’s important to be aware of the signs that your teen might be in trouble and alert for the suggestion that your teen might be more easily influenced or upset than the average teenager. But you shouldn’t assume that your teenager will be in trouble solely because they’ve had a negative experience online. In fact, if you place too much importance on these types of interactions, you may just be creating additional stress for your teen.

How Are Teens Coping?

Screen time

While the internet has its dangers, it also allows teens to form friendships and join supportive communities.

Interestingly, researchers aren’t sure where teens are learning the coping skills that allow them to handle these encounters without any lasting harm. Some researchers theorize that it’s the positive online interactions with friends or supportive online communities.

It’s also worth remembering that this generation of teenagers has grown up with digital media as a part of their everyday lives in a way that other generations have not. Social media and online communication come much more naturally to today’s teens than to older adults who had to learn to navigate these spaces later in life.

What Parents Should Do

Of course, none of this information means that your teens should be left to navigate the internet without any parental input. In fact, open communication between parents and teens about the things that teens may encounter online and how to deal with them is important to helping teens prepare themselves and develop healthy strategies for dealing with online dangers.

Make sure that your kids understand how to protect themselves online – for example, how to manage their privacy settings and report harassment or unwanted contact. You should also make sure that your kids are getting plenty of offline socialization and entertainment as well. It can be easy to spend too much time online, and it’s important to take breaks now and then.

Parental control apps can help you keep tabs on your child’s screen time and help them learn to set healthy limits and boundaries on their internet use. To find out how it can work for your family, learn more.

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