The internet has an impact on all of our lives, but perhaps no group is impacted more than teens. With near constant access to the internet being the reality for today’s youth, it’s no surprise that many parents are concerned. From social media use to exposure to content of all types and kinds, it’s natural for parents to wonder how it might be influencing their teen’s social skills. There are both positives and negatives to how the internet may shape social skills for teenagers.
With a smartphone in their pocket, teenagers are now able to have constant contact with family and friends, anytime, and from anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection. This is a positive when it comes to helping them chat, make plans, get advice, and even just to feel connected with their peers. However, it can also help to foster shallow relationships, where they simply chat briefly through messaging services and social media sites, without actually having a deeper, more meaningful conversation in person. For teens that are more introverted, it can seem helpful, but it may actually be hindering them from coming out of their shell and forging more meaningful friendships in person.
Fear of missing out
One of the biggest drawbacks to the Internet and social media for users of all ages is that they may experience the fear of missing out, commonly known as “FOMO” for short. Not only can teens feel like they aren’t doing as much as others, they also may feel left out when they see their classmates and friends enjoying activities without them. Teens today share so much on social media sites, and if one friend isn’t included in an outing, they’re bound to find out about it. This can leave them feeling rejected, and they may start to withdrawal from their friend group. On the other hand, it could encourage them to take the lead and make plans for future activities with their friends.
Building better social skills
One positive aspect of the Internet is that it can actually help teens to build better social skills. They can practice communicating with others through chats and emails, learning to fine tune how they interact with different people relating to different topics. It can be helpful in actually building up a stronger friendship over time, leading up to more in person interactions that will eventually be comfortable for them, since the relationship developed over time.
Growing their social circle
Teens can also grow and develop their social circle online, communicating not only with friends that they know in their everyday lives, but also with family members and peers with similar interests. The Internet has made it much easier to get and stay in touch with people from all over the world, so even if a friend or relative has moved away, a relationship can be maintained. Teens can socialize with a broader group of people than they would have if they were limited to just face to face interactions.
The teen years are an important time for developing and strengthening good social skills. The Internet has made it possible to do so, while also presenting some challenges. As long as parents work to ensure a balance with their teen’s Internet use, it should be seen as a positive, helpful tool.
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