Is All #SocialMedia Destructive for #Teenagers?

Empower Your Teen

I've been hanging out online since I was a kid. It became even more important when I hit high school and I was suddenly spending a lot of time alone. I know you're probably thinking that you don't care, you're not interested in hearing another sob story but that isn't what this is. Social media was as important to me as a teenager as it is to so many girls (and boys) today, but all I'm seeing in the press is a negative view of it and it felt fundamental to share both sides of things with you.

I want to start by saying that I'm not suggesting that nothing negative ever happens. Photos get leaked, girls get preyed on, bullied and humiliated and people for some reason seem to forget that you need to be certain a person is real before you agree to meet them and that you always make sure you have someone with you. But some of the issues people blame social media for have been hounding teenagers for generations in other forms. I'll never forget that most teenagers in my high school had seen an explicit photo because because someone sent it to a crush or partner but it got leaked through text or blue tooth. That was before Snapchat and Instagram so excuse me if I'm not shocked because some of these things have been happening for years.

There's a whole other side to social media for teenagers who may feel alone, who are bullied or maybe they have to move away from their friends. With social media it's easy to keep in contact with friends, even at a distance, and while it's not necessarily easier to make new friends, you do at least have more opportunities to. Social media can be a safe space to talk about different topics, from trying to understand sexuality to just finding people who have similar interests to you. You do have to be careful of fake accounts but if you can get them to Snapchat you or talk to you on webcam or something that allows you to see they are as they appear in their pictures, it can make you and your parents more comfortable. My Mum had to have a conversation with another friend’s Mum when I was 16 before we met up; just to prove we were who we said we were. My friend gave me a joke predator name because to us it was hilarious as we'd checked up on each other.

If you have a teenager who you know doesn't get out much and they spend a lot of time on social media then chances are that it's where their friends are. You see joke posts on Tumblr all the time about teenagers not wanting to leave their bedroom but for some it’s a reality. And I've had friends awkwardly try to explain to me why they need to have this long conversation on Facebook with their crush rather than having it face to face because they're too embarrassed. The scaremongering reports seem to forget that teenagers are still teenagers; some might feel like they have to be on it but for others it can be a sigh of relief as they're so awkward. They can be someone else for a little while and have conversations they actually care about rather than just about celebrities or what so and so did at that party the other night.

Another worry is that some teenagers might get humiliated for their choices on social media but it would be happening in the corridors at school or written on the toilet walls even without the internet. Teenagers can get the chance to learn almost anything thanks to social media like Youtube, can ask any question thanks to other sites and can be treated older than they are, which is what they want. You have to think, if its 8-12 year olds actually reading books for younger teenagers as the older teenagers start to read adult books, why wouldn’t their social media show the same phenomenon?

People are judging social media for all the wrong reasons. Yes, there are lots of unfortunate examples but I bet if a lot of parents sat down and just asked what they did on social media and to see some of it, you'd be surprised by how tame most of it is but how much fun they have. They can stalk the celebrities they read about in magazines on Instagram and Twitter, they can share funny photos on Snapchat, can spend hours watching stupid videos on Vine and YouTube or hours laughing about stupid memes on Tumblr. They can learn who they are on there just as much as they can with their friends in real life. As long as they're careful, which a lot of teenagers know to be.

Statistic from end of 2014 | BBC
So don't demonise something that you use a lot yourself, there are horrible crimes happening to people of all ages because of it but that doesn't make it a living nightmare. It's only destructive if you let it be. Yes, social media is still very new and we are still working the kinks out but we can all do that together.

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