Unfortunately, scary examples of online predators and cyberstalkers make parents focus solely on the dangers kids face when talking to people online. However, kids are pretty online savvy these days and, when using social networks responsibly, they can form some strong and safe relationships online. Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some creeps out there, but as long as kids practice smart online behaviors, there can be some benefits to forming and developing online relationships:
- Anonymity – the majority of kids have insecurities and worries that they may not be fully comfortable discussing with direct peers. However, finding people online with whom they can talk openly and comfortably is an advantage kids have nowadays.
- Less rejection – similar to discussing personal worries or concerns, teens also may feel rejected or disappointed when interacting with peers at school or through other activities. Online, this isn’t as big of a risk.
- Practice – if kids are shy or uncomfortable at school, talking to people online can be good practice for real world relationships. Kids are freed from restraints that may make them self-conscious or nervous at school, and can gain confidence through less direct interactions.
- Access – the Internet is always available so if a child is having trouble talking to people at school or through other activities, they can feel instantly connected online.
- Similar interests – when using safe and secure social networking sites, kids can find others with whom they may have something in common. Meeting new and different peers online can be a nice break from a teen’s everyday classmates and social groups.
Of course, kids should never give away overly personal information online no matter how much of a connection they feel with someone else. And parents should always have a good understanding of who their kids are talking to. But finding likeminded kids or teens online can definitely have benefits for kids as long as both they – and their parents – are online savvy and know how to use social networks safely.
Have your kids ever expressed interest in using social networks or chat rooms to talk to other kids or teens online?