If you're the parent of a teenager, you've undoubtedly had concerns about the inordinate amount of time your kid has spent taking senseless selfies to keep Snapchat streaks going, laughing at idiotic memes on Instagram or spending hours at a time getting killed on Fortnite. But maybe you don't need to worry, at least if you believe research recently released by the Pew Research Center.
Constant internet use doesn't equate with less in-person time with friends
According to a survey of U.S. teenagers conducted earlier this year, your kids aren't an anomaly--nearly half of adolescents 13 to 17 years old report being on the internet "almost constantly" and almost all of them--more than nine in ten--use social media. Pew categorized teens into those who are highly connected online versus those who are less connected, and here's what's weird: the teens who are highly connected online are actually just as likely to hang out with friends in person. Nearly a quarter (24 percent) of highly connected teens say they socialize in person with their friends outside of school daily or nearly every day. That's almost the same amount as the kids who spend less time online--23 percent of them see their friends face to face almost every day.
Teenagers maintain relationships with frequent online communication
Anything which keeps friendships viable is a positive thing, isn't it? Regardless of whether teens are online constantly, or less frequently, more than half of the kids in each group talk to their friends online daily, or almost daily. The only difference comes in the number of social media sites used. Teens who use five or more social platforms are much more likely to talk to their friends online every day (75 percent), whereas only 41 percent of kids who only use one or two social media sites communicate digitally with friends daily.
Internet use doesn't negatively affect the probability of your teen having a close friend
Pew found that regardless of whether teens are highly connected online or not, most kids in each group say that have at least one tight friend. There also wasn't much of a difference between the two groups in terms of feeling as if they fit in well with peers--53 percent of those who are constantly online feel this way, compared with 49 percent of those who spend less time online. One difference: teens with a high level of internet usage are much more likely to believe that social platforms help them feel connected to buddies and that they have a support network when they need one.
But, all of this connectivity puts the pressure on
High internet users are about twice as likely as casual users to feel increased pressure to post things which make them look good, or will garner a bunch of likes. It also follows that the kids who spend more time online report a higher incidence of feeling harassed or bullied when they've been plugged in.
Still, your kids need to be heads-up at times
Research aside, good parents lay down some laws when it comes to phones, tablets and computers. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents should make the dinner table, the car, and bedrooms media-free zones. And media use should be shut down at a certain point every night--whether that means handing over phones or unplugging screens. Researchers have found that teens who get less than eight hours of sleep a night are more likely to skip breakfast, eat more crap food, engage in more screen time and be overweight.