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article imageOp-Ed: Your teen has 78 friends they’ve never met. Here’s why

By Bob Hutchins     May 28, 2014 in Internet
Well, if there’s one thing your trope-of-a-teen is, she’s social. And “social media,” that nondescript phrase we plaster on everything from Snapchat to Facebook, is a teen’s hive.
What is a teenager? Maybe it’s easier to ask, what is a teenager not? Social. Rebellious. Energetic. Not entirely developed in the mental arena? A new film by Matt Wolf, Teenage, is one of the many new conversations pushing this question.
I’d like to start a discussion today about how teens use social media. But first, let’s stand on some common ground with this new infographic from Brandwatch about teens on social media.
9 Facts About Teens on Social Media (Age 12 – 15)
12-15 year olds spend an average of 17 hours on the internet a week.
51 percent have uploaded photos to a website.
19 percent have made a video and shared it online.
61 percent use a mobile phone to visit social networking sites.
20 percent visit social networking sites more than 10x per day.
They have an average 272 friends on social networks, but have only met an average 194 of those.
64 percent have had a negative online experience.
Only 48 percent feel confident that they know how to stay safe online.
57 percent of teens have accidentally accessed inappropriate content online.
Understanding Teens on Social Media
If you’re looking for a neat and simple summary, you’re going to be disappointed. With issues this complex, there simply isn’t that kid of answer. But, as a parent of kids of all ages, I have seen the gamut — from kids who grew up without dial-up to kids who are whipping through an iPad in the crib.
So, what do teens want out of this thing we call “social media?” Well, the answer’s in the question. Like all of us, they want a social experience. They want to have that place to be with their peers outside of mom and dad’s eye. What the car did for teenagers in the 1920s, “social media” did for teens in the 2000s: freedom, liberty, and the chance to “strike out on their own,” while never really going too far.
Is the need for privacy a bad thing? Should it be concerning to parents? I say, not necessarily, as long as you are able to have an open conversation with your child about the important issues social networks bring before us — those issues of safety, respecting others, and the indelible permanence of our online words and actions.
If this topic interests you, I’d highly recommend a book by Danah Boyd, titled, It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. There’s a lot of ground to cover, and I’d love to keep the conversation going. Have thoughts of your own? Leave them in the comments section below!
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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