How to build a digitally resilient tween
Cyber-bullying, social media and group messaging - here's how to navigate through
By Elly Robinson, adolescent health expert and author
July 29 2018
Today’s ‘screenagers’ are the most tech-savvy generation ever, with four in five 12-17 year olds regularly going online. Technology is a vital part of most young people’s lives and it’s a great space for creativity, being social and finding information quickly. There’s no online world and offline world for a teen – it is all their world. Yet their brain is not fully developed; impulsivity, a desire to be accepted and peer pressure are some of the characteristics that can lead to problems in the online world.
Parents should ensure that children and teenagers are engaging in safe practices (further information can be found at esafety.gov.au). But equally, it’s critical to take an active role in building your teen’s confidence to deal effectively with difficult situations.
So how do we make sure that our tweens and teens have the coping skills to deal with problems that arise?
Here are some tips:
- Provide access to social media and smart phones only when you are confident that your child has the social and emotional skills to be a good online citizen, and not just because their friends already have access. Ask gentle questions about how they will judge what to share and with whom, and how they can tell if a person online is who they say they are.
- Once a social media account is opened, for the first few months remain engaged by monitoring and supervising use and being available to answer any questions your child has about online content or interactions.
- Provide opportunities for your child to be good at something that they value that is offline, like sport, music or art. Encourage them not to give up too quickly. This allows them to build competence and confidence that will help them navigate both the online and offline world.
- Encourage tweens and teens to be aware of self-talk and how it can be positive or negative. What we think affects how we feel, so discuss with them about how to talk encouragingly to themselves. Explain to them that social media is often full of highly edited and curated images that are impossible to live up to, and that they can make them feel inadequate.
Above all, these tweens and teens need to feel safe, valued and listened to, like all children. But unlike other ages, teenagers are much more likely to be maligned, feared and mistrusted. We need to be conscious of providing them with opportunities to be their best so that they are able to build competence and confidence. Invest a little trust in them and give them the opportunity to do the right thing, and always keep the lines of communication open.
Surviving Adolescents 2.0 by Michael Carr-Gregg and Elly Robinson, published by Penguin Life is on-sale now. $22.99