The top five internet concerns of teens and tweens and how to meet these challenges. By Emma and Charlotte Robertson, co-founders of Digital Awareness UK
At Digital Awareness UK, we speak to thousands of parents and young people every week about the ups and downs of growing up online. For the most part, we hear positive stories from young people about how technology has enabled them to embrace difference, stay informed, be creative, or build friendships.
But what parents worry about may not match up to reality for young people, so we’re here to offer insight into the real-life concerns of teens today. Here are the top five issues we hear about regularly on the ground in our schools.
1. I’m not getting enough sleep
Students repeatedly tell us that sleep hygiene - things that affect the quality of their sleep - is their number one concern in the digital wellbeing space. We conducted research with the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference in 2018, which found that 50% of 11 to 18-year olds check their phones after going to bed at night, with 25% of those staying on their phones for over an hour.
2. I’m getting sent messages and images I don’t like
If we were to ask a room full of teenage students how many had been sent unwanted violent or sexually explicit content in the last 24 hours, the vast majority would raise their hands. The ease with which it’s possible to access and share such content leaves many feeling distressed and disempowered.
3. I’m afraid of being hacked
As with many adults, young people are increasingly concerned about how secure their data is online and with whom it’s being shared. Most students admit that they have been hacked and that they have felt anxious because they didn’t know what types of information may have been compromised.
4. Abuse on the rise
Our research found that 57% of 11 to 18-year olds had experienced online abuse. Today, due to the proliferation of the use of platforms such as anonymous apps and private group chats, this number will undoubtedly be much higher.
5. The pursuit for perfection
Despite increased awareness of how much of what we see on social media has been staged, edited and perfected, mental health problems such as self-esteem issues experienced when young people compare themselves to others are more prevalent today than ever before. So, what can parents do to help?
So, what can parents do to help?
Know what you’re talking about: “A huge barrier for discussing digital issues with parents is that you often don’t know what we’re talking about. You don’t need to know the ins and outs of Snapchat but taking an interest in how the app works helps us to have a conversation”. Jay, 15
Keep talking about it: “It’s most useful when my parents allow me to talk about the problems I’m having online without judging me”. Finn, 13
Let us make mistakes: “We are curious and will sometimes use apps we know we shouldn’t or say things we wish we didn’t. Part of growing up online is learning from your mistakes”. Liv, 14
Whether it happens on a car journey or before bed, talking to your child about their online life is so important. Remember to ensure conversations don’t always lead to “tech-bashing” and take the many benefits technology and the internet has to offer into account.
It’s important that children are given the freedom to be resilient and self-moderate with an appropriate level of handholding, depending on your child.
Digital Awareness UK is one of the UK’s leading digital wellbeing organisations, offering consultancy to schools and organisations around the world. To find out more please visit digitalawarenessuk.com