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What Are Teens Doing Online?

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Teens view smartphones and tablets as naturally as previous generations did telephones and TVs

In previous generations, the stereotype of the teenager spending every hour away from school on the phone or in front of the TV was prevalent. The advent of the Internet and hand-held smartphones has changed the technology of these remote interactions and, if anything, exacerbated the problem of teens being hooked into the electronic communications network to the exclusion of what their parents might consider living real lives.

CNN recently reported on a study by Common Sense Media that teenagers spend a mind blowing nine hours a day using media for enjoyment, generally on their smartphones and tablets. Tweens spend six hours a day doing the same thing. They watch TV, videos, movies, play video games, read websites and eBooks, and, especially, check up on social media.

The reason is not hard to understand. The new electronic devices are not only portable and convenient but gather into one piece of technology what a number of appliances, many of them large and clunky, used to do. Moreover, tweens and teens have never lived in a world where interacting with the universe from a device in the palm of his or her hand was not common.

The lives of children in cyberspace

What are teens doing online? According to the Harvard Medical School, Marion Underwood of the University of Texas and Robert Faris of the University of California, Davis, on behalf of CNN, conducted a study of 216 eighth graders from eight middle schools in Georgia, Indiana, New Jersey, New York, Texas, and Virginia and how they interacted with media. They installed software on their electronic devices and they and their parents filled out questionnaires. The researchers came to a number of conclusions, some of them sobering.

13-year-old children are heavy users of social media

Most of the children in the study used Instagram, with Twitter and Facebook running distant seconds. The teenagers in the study posted four times a week on the average. Most of their activity consists of watching and reading what others are doing rather than interacting on social media.

Why do teenagers spend so much time online?

The study suggests that teenagers spend so much time online for fear of missing out, especially on the latest gossip, especially if it is about them. Most teens view popularity with great importance, and social media is used as a barometer in order to gauge how popular teenagers are. The children who check social media frequently want to know what is being posted about them, how many tags and likes they get, and whether they are being excluded socially. Teens who lurk a long time on social media tend to have the most social and self-esteem issues. Teens who are using social media to enhance their popularity and feel they are not getting enough recognition tend to be the most anxious.

Naturally, this use of social media tends to lead to conflict. 42 percent of the survey reported having an online fight, most likely with a friend, at least once a month. Taking to the extreme, these kinds of conflicts can lead to cyberbullying, in which children use social media to pick on and humiliate a peer. Some instances of cyberbullying have led to suicides.

Parents are struggling to keep up

Just as in previous generations, parents have a difficult time keeping up with what their children are doing. They tend to underestimate some of the negative aspects of online interactions.

Conclusion

Despite the findings of the study, teens reported that their online interactions were mostly positive. The Internet and social media are, after all, technological tools that enhance the ability of teens to make friends and explore their environment. The trick is for parents to become more engaged with their children and more aware of their online lives. When this happens, the interactions teens have on the Internet tend to be more positive.

Solutions

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When setting a plan to keep you teens balanced and safe from dangerous content and apps on their mobile device us parents have  a lot to consider because most parental control apps and “safe routers” are easy for kids to circumvent. These days, it is critical to not be lax about what your kids and teens are doing on their mobile devices and it is crucial to be proactive. Allowing unfiltered internet in your home and on your kid’s smartphones, can be dangerous. It is in their nature to test your limits and be curious. As parents it is our  job is to make sure they stay safe and don’t make bad choices which can harm them for years to come. One trustworthy parental control that prides itself in not being easily defeatable by even the most tech-savvy teens is Netsanity.

Setting boundaries with the types of apps that your children and teens are exposed to is a good first step. Netsanity offers a suite of services for parents. For instance, their appblocker for Apple iOS mobile devices is a must have. With one click, you can block more than 50 previously profiled, internet-based apps that you find inappropriate. They have a 14-day free trial, so it’s worth checking out if your kids have Apple devices. An Android for Samsung version is due out in October!

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