Today’s teenagers grow up surrounded by technology and take the internet and social media for granted. This constant exposure can affect their self-esteem and give them unrealistic perceptions about how the world works. Since adolescents are less likely to be skeptical of information they see online, parents must understand the potential risks and benefits of internet use for teens and how to keep a healthy balance for your child.
Online Hate Speech Is on the Rise
Platforms like TikTok and YouTube have thousands of daily user interactions worldwide, and while many of these are innocuous, some are deliberately harmful. Social media companies use algorithms to determine content’s validity and placement. Unfortunately, some people have figured out how to manipulate these algorithms to target unsuspecting adolescents and young adults – especially teenage boys – and expose them to racist and misogynistic ideas.
Many young men feel angry, frustrated and misunderstood, and are uniquely open to the idea that someone else is to blame. Content creators are eager to exploit this vulnerability. Hate speech against women, people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community is rampant online, and if your son spends most of his time interacting with people on the internet, he’ll almost certainly encounter this bigotry.
Why Limit Your Child’s Internet Use?
Overuse of digital media may also place your children at risk of issues like these.
- Sleep debt: Growing teenagers with a TV, laptop or gaming console in their bedroom may stay up later at night and be sleep-deprived in the morning. When teenagers don’t get the correct amount of sleep, their health and academic performance can suffer.
- Behavioral problems: Violent content can cause adolescents to act out, either because they are scared and confused by what they see or they try to mimic on-screen characters.
- Technology addiction: Children who spend too much time online can have trouble stepping away from their screens. Avid gamers are especially at risk of this. If your son spends most of his spare time online, he may become isolated and lose interest in real-life relationships.
- Risky behaviors: Teen boys may use social media to brag about doing dangerous things like using drugs and alcohol, having unsafe sex or harming themselves.
- Loss of privacy: Many teens post intensely personal details online without a second thought, not realizing that once they’ve shared information so publicly, there will always be a record of it somewhere. Additionally, adolescents may not be aware of the value of privacy settings. As a result, criminals may use social media, chat rooms, email and online games to contact and exploit children.
- Cyberbullying: Adolescents might be victims of cyberbullies, who may take advantage of anonymity to say things they would never say in person. Bullying can adversely affect all involved parties. Fortunately, programs exist to prevent and reduce this problem.
How to Make the Internet a More Positive Place for Your Son
It’s not realistic to expect you can monitor every online interaction your teen son has, but the more you know, the better role model you can be. Remember that teens on the verge of adulthood are seeking acceptance, so criticizing them or disrespecting their choices can shut down avenues for healthy, mutually respectful conversation.
When you have an opportunity to do so, point your teen to accurate, balanced information and alternative viewpoints. Let him know you care about his well-being using active listening skills and asking open-ended questions.
Combining Recovery, Academics and Adventure at ARCH Academy
At ARCH Academy, we offer teen boys ages 14 to 17 a chance to change their story. Our mission is to give hope and healing to families affected by substance use disorders. Learn more about our high-quality 12-step addiction program by reaching out to us today.