Adolescents and Electronic Communication (page 2)

By — Children's Digital Media Center Los Angeles
Updated on Aug 14, 2009

The Role of Parenting in Technology Use

Indeed, parents can have an important influence in reducing teens’ risky behaviors with social networking sites. In recent research, teens who perceived their parents to be indulgent (warm and involvement, but low in strictness and supervision) reported the most risky online behavior such as meeting someone in person they had first met online (7). Teens who perceived their parents as authoritative (warm and involved, as well as high in strictness and supervision) reported the lowest frequency of this risky behavior. Authoritative parenting also involves open lines of communication between parent and child.
We know that open parent-child communication reduces risky and antisocial behavior induced by media such as TV that present sexualized and aggressive content (8). We therefore highly recommend a parenting style that combines warmth, supervision, and open communication between parent and child. One important means of parental supervision is to place a computer in a central area, rather than in the child’s room.
In addition, MySpace and Facebook present new opportunities for parent-child child communication and parental supervision. Once a young person posts a MySpace or Facebook page, their lives are public and open, not kept hidden away in a secret diary. If a parent is able to access their child’s page, he or she can use it as a means to interact and learn more about the child. For example, if the teenager is open to allowing the parent to be a “friend,” parents can join their teenager’s network and monitor their communication, just as other friends do. In order to become a teenager’s “friend,” a parent will need to create his or her own social networking site page; doing so may turn out to be a means to understand the nature of this communication tool. Ideally, parents should be able to discuss with their children the positive and negative influences of the site, as well as what is appropriate for “public” consumption and what is inappropriate and should be kept private and offline. For example, an adolescent may not understand that something posted online can be accessed by future employers, college recruiters and others.

Threats Online

Cyber-bullying may appear especially frightening to parents because it involves communication technologies with which they are unfamiliar. Research has found that cyberspace may not function as a separate risky environment but rather as an extension of the school grounds (9). For example, in today’s world, a teenager who is bullied at school can also be bullied at home, while on the computer. In fact, a majority of adolescents who experience cyber-bullying know the perpetrator from their offline world. These scientists also found that ninety percent of children do not tell an adult about their experience with cyber-bullying primarily because of fear of parental restrictions.

One useful feature of social networking sites is that if a teenager is feeling harassed by someone, they can choose to stop further communication from that person by blocking screen names.   Juvonen and Gross found that many adolescents do not use such procedures to protect themselves, perhaps because they are unaware that they are available (9). In addition, privacy measures have given adolescent users a great deal of control over who views their profiles. Recently, MySpace has restricted the ability of users over the age of 18 to become friends with younger users (10). More safety measures such as these are being added all of the time.

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