The Pew Internet Research group has released the results of a study this month that may have a certain type of parents question their digital parenting framework.
According to the research, 87% of adults who use the internet say that the web has improved their ability to learn new things. Too much information/information overload? Asked if they enjoy having so much information at their fingertips or if they feel overloaded, 72% of internet users report they appreciate access to so much information. Their ability to share ideas has increased steadily.
That’s what it’s all about in this knowledge-based society – learning and applying new things, both at work and in our personal lives. If the internet is good for adults, shouldn’t it be good for teens?
If you’re a parent that favors blocking websites and apps entirely for your teens or pre teens, you may want to rethink that decision.
We’re not saying to let them use everything – quite the opposite. We’re suggesting that you should make an active decision, for each website and social network to the extent that you can, whether your teen or tween is mature enough to handle the content and types of interactions that typically happen there. In our opinon it’s more about maturity than age. Sure, the age limit (13 on most networks, 17+ on some apps) is a good guideline for when they might be old enough, but being that age doesn’t mean they’re mature enough.
What goes into that determination? Well, for some content it’s easy, i.e. Club Penguin is certainly for kids, alcohol-related sites are intended for adults. For many others there is a large grey area, but we don’t recommend banning the use of some networks or apps just because there is some bad content or are some bad actors there. Even if you’re not a fan of porn, you probably don’t ban your teen from using the internet entirely, even though there is a lot of porn there.
The internet, and many sites and networks on the web are not black and white. We aren’t fans of Yik Yak, but admit that there are some positive, interesting and funny posts made there. We aren’t in favor of exposing kids or teens to drugs, alcohol or illegal activities, but banning some websites entirely because there is some of that there isn’t a perfect answer.
Take Reddit for example, the crowdsourced news and infotainment site that does have a lot of adult content, and some cyberbullying. If you prohibit your teen from using Reddit, you are also prohibiting him from taking advantage of hundreds of categories, or subreddits, which host very in depth content and discussion on topics diverse and esoteric.
When it comes to teens and the internet, we favor exposure to the positive and managing a way to avoid the negative, which gets easier the more mature the teen happens to be. Many teens are mature enough to handle or ignore things that would make the average parent blush.
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