Is Social Media Warping Teens’ Idea of Friendship?

By on 02-25-2014

Is Social Media Warping Teens’ Idea of Friendship?Does your teen know who his real friends are? Does he even know what a friend is? Thanks to social media, these are actual questions being raised by researchers, including Patricia Greenfield, a developmental psychologist at UCLA and director of the Children’s Media Center in Los Angeles.

Teens Go Online for Emotional Support, Says Researcher

Greenfield’s research has revealed that adolescents today are getting their emotional support in different ways than generations before them: “We found in our study that people, college students, are not getting a sense of social support from being on the phone. They're getting social support through bigger networks and having a sense that their audience is large." In other words, they’re relying on their number of Facebook friends and Instagram hearts for support, rather than an encouraging word spoken from a real-life friend.

Redefining Intimacy

Perhaps even more disturbing is the notion that teens are sharing so much of their personal lives online, which could affect more intimate relationships later on. Greenfield says, “The whole idea behind intimacy is self-disclosure. Now they're doing self-disclosure to an audience of hundreds." According to the 2013 Pew Internet and American Life Project report entitled Teens, Social Media, and Privacy, the majority of teens share personal information and photos of themselves with their entire social media network.

Takeaway for Parents

Although questions like these may be uncomfortable for parents, it’s best not to overreact. We may sometimes wish we could make the Internet disappear from our kids’ lives altogether, but a total ban is neither realistic nor advisable. After all, the web and even social media have good things to offer teens as well. Fortunately, there are other things you can do besides restricting social media altogether:

  • Put healthy screen time limits in place.
  • Talk to your child about her online life. Express interest and welcome questions openly.
  • Monitor your teen’s social media use and find out who he’s talking to online.
  • Foster your child’s real-life friendships and encourage plenty of face-to-face interaction.

Remember, it’s up to you to help your child achieve a healthy tech-life balance, so be sure you’re setting a good example and talking to your child often about safe and responsible web use.

Note: The opinions above belong to Melissa Maypole, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility for Qustodio. Download Qustodio’s free software to begin managing, monitoring, and understanding your kids’ online media consumption today. For more information on digital parenting and online safety, follow us on Twitter and Facebook.


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