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Written by Tony Bianco

Social media, just like many of the other major components of the Internet, started out simple enough; connect with friends and spend time together when you cannot be physically together. 

However, just like many of the major components of the Internet, social media has blown up in popularity with adults and more so, teenagers, who are using it almost constantly in their day-to-day.

Let’s take a look at 6 stats on how social media affects teenagers that parents need to know.

1. YouTube is the most popular social media platform.

According to a 2018 PEW Research, “85% of U.S. teens say they use YouTube.” 

I know what you are thinking, “YouTube is a social media platform?” 

Well, what makes a platform deemed social?  I believe a good definition would be “sharing content with friends/others with the expectation of response or reaction.” 

If this is our definition, then YouTube is certainly a social media platform. 

In a world where you can stream video games to even just your thoughts to the world, YouTube makes it very easy to be “heard.”  

Parents need to be aware that this is a platform that makes it incredibly easy to follow or “subscribe” to someone’s content.  Once a subscription is made, the follower is subject to whatever kind of content that user creates and pushes to his/her subscribers. 

Knowing who your student is spending time with, whether they are watching video gameplay or how to make slime, should be a major priority!

2. Teenagers are using multiple social media platforms, not just one. 

This may seem known to you if you are a parent of a socially active teenager.  However, in 2014 – 2015 survey, a majority of teens were primarily using one main social media platform, Facebook (51%). 

Results from the 2018 PEW Research on Teens & Social Media show that teens say, “they use Snapchat 35% of the time, YouTube 32% of the time, and Instagram 15% of the time.”  This is a greater scope of use than just three years ago. 

As parents we have to know where our students are and who they are with; social media is no different than going to a friends house for a few hours.  This also means they may have more than one online personality. 

Teenagers may be representing themselves differently on each platform and may also be interacting with different people differently on each platform.  This could simply be repressing different interests but also may be a bit of deception to the online world they are surrounding themselves in. 

3. Big Bucks for Likes. 

71% of U.S. businesses are using Instagram since 2017. This may not seem like a big deal on the surface, however, there are more than just pictures being shared and liked, it’s ads and products.

Historically, teenagers have been the highest trafficked advertising demographic because of all the funds they potentially pull from their parents.  Since many teens are using this platform parents need to know that it’s not just their students’ friends influencing them but big business too! 

This does not even in factor in all the “influencers” that make a home on Instagram.  These “influencers” are fashion and travel Insta-bloggers that post pictures of new clothes or places they have gone in hopes to sell products or tickets to these destinations.  This is just a new way for companies and brands to reach an audience and as we have seen, a younger one at that.

4. Teens are not alone on Snapchat. 

According to a 2018 PEW Research on Social Media, 78% of Snapchat users are 18-24yrs old. 

The dangers for parents of teenagers is that the majority of the platform are young adults, not fellow teenagers.  Plus, with the ease-ability for teens to follow or be followed by anyone the inevitability of teens connecting to someone over 18 years old is very high. 

Not to say college students and young adults are terrible company but they are in a very different life stage than a high school freshman.  Motives and decisions are different and the content that they have “access” to is different.  This is why knowing and even approving friends and followers may need to be a growing practice for parents of teenagers.

5. Cyberbullying is still a thing. 

This was a huge buzzword in parenting circles 3-5 years ago but lately many are not as focused on this like they are other issues with online behavior.  However, cyberbullying is still a big deal on the social media spectrum. 

Ditch The Label’s 2017 Annual Bullying Survey shows that 42% of teens on Instagram have experienced cyberbullying.  Following right behind, 37% on Facebook, and 31% on Snapchat of teens have experienced a cyberbullying attack. 

As parents, we need to have two conversations on this topic. 

The first one is how we want our students to respond to such potential attacks.  Whether you want them to ignore it, respond with love, unfriend/unfollow, etc but they need to know your expectation. 

The second conversation needs to be knowing they can trust you to come to you when something like this happens.  Older students may not want to “bother” you with such discussions but as a parent, it’s important that you know to keep your student emotionally healthy. 

Plus, with a majority of the bully content being based on appearance this may affect image and identity security to the point of behavior changes.  

6. Social Media & Sexting. 

JAMA Pediatrics compiled 39 studies and analyzed data from more than 110,00 participants with 15 yrs old being the average age, found that 15% of teens send sext messages and more than 27% have received them.  This is a terrible statistic and as much as parents try to protect their students the possibility of this type of activity is growing. 

The hardest thing parents need to teach their teens is that their smartphone is a two-way device. 

They do not have to interact with it for it to interact with them.  Even if they are not prone to sending this type of content they may be one of many numbers in a group chat that receives it. 

Parents need to have constant conversations with their teen about what they are seeing and who they are connecting with.  The more open parents can be with the easy conversations the easier it will be to have the hard ones. 

I think it is clear that the social media platform is one that can be dangerous if it is not managed and/or monitored. Parents need to have an active approach when it comes to technology instead of a passive one. 

One of the easiest ways to keep this under control in your home is to have open conversations about what is going on online in your teen’s world.  Sit down and openly talk about “what happened on Snapchat today?” or “did you share any funny memes with friends?”. 

These are easy ways to not only find out what is going on your teen’s screen but build a relationship around it. 

The more you connect to your student about their technology the more likely they are to share it with you. 

Parenting with technology and social media can be difficult but through prayer and support of other parents, it can be accomplished.

Here are the resources cited in this blog post: 

    1. http://www.pewinternet.org/2018/05/31/teens-social-media-technology-2018/
    2. http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/09/teens-social-media-technology-2015/
    3. https://www.socialmediatoday.com/marketing/10-instagram-statistics-keep-mind-when-planning-your-2018-strategy
    4. http://www.pewinternet.org/2018/03/01/social-media-use-in-2018/
    5. https://www.ditchthelabel.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/The-Annual-Bullying-Survey-2017-1.pdf
    6. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/article-abstract/2673719

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Written by Tony Blanco

TONY BIANCO has been in Student Ministry for 10+ years with his wife Diamend with whom they have two amazing kids. He is a former Radio DJ, Technology Reviewer, GameStop Manager, Apple Store Expert, and the author of The Family Technology Plan. www.familytechnologyplan.com