The Internet and social media changed the dating landscape, but with all the ways it makes it easier to meet people and stay connected with close and distant friends, there’s plenty to be said about how technology and social media can negatively impact relationships.
This article looks at the influence of technology in a teen’s life and offers insight for parents on how to help youth use it responsibly. And although this article focuses on tips for parents and teens on how to navigate healthy relationships online, the impact of technology, social media and relationship ups and downs applies to people of all ages.
Teens and technology
Today’s teenagers have aged in the digital era, they are among the first generations to have had computers in the home and technology more integrated in every part of our daily lives than any generation before it.
In the latest Pew Research study, 95% of U.S. teens report having a smartphone or having access to use one. Common Sense Media reports that teens are spending an average of nine hours per day online with digital technology. With that much time spent using technology, teens are inevitably influenced by what is experienced online.
How technology affects teenagers lives
There are many ways the Internet affects relationships, how social media affects romantic relationships for teenagers is through the perception of a “new normal” regarding communication, boundaries, and control.
Teens and relationships in today’s digital landscape offer 24/7 access to communication with each other, insight into where they are, who they are with, and increased risk of jealousy if emotions are left unmanaged.
And it’s not just for those in relationships. Teens are also using the Internet to engage in early stage romantic behavior. Pew Research shows 50% of teens have let someone know they were interested in them romantically by friending them on social media, and 47% have expressed their attraction by liking, commenting or otherwise interacting with that person on social media.
With these elements of dating now on our phones and on the Internet, teens and parents should be aware of unhealthy behavior and warning signs to keep an eye out for.
Technology and Relationships Warning Signs
According to a study of over 5,000 teens from Northeastern states, published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, about 25% of youth in a relationship said that they experienced some form of cyber dating abuse victimization in the last year.
Cyber dating abuse refers to using some form of technology to intimidate, harass, or control a partner. This could translate to demanding texts back, taking pictures to prove where you are, or “blowing up your phone” with repeated calls and texts or social media messages. It also could include demanding access to a partner’s phone or forcing them to unfriend certain people, or posting screenshots of text messages or inappropriate photos of another person with the intent to cause distress.
These behaviors are common characteristics of need to control, insecurity, and a lack of trust. Warning signs a teen may be experiencing online dating abuse include excessive check-ins via electronic communication, leaving after taking calls or frantic texts for fear of upsetting their partner, or appearing emotionally distressed after using the Internet.
Advice for Parents of Teens
Parents with children of any age can create a safe and open place for communication by frequently discussing good and bad sides of technology and relationships. Youth will learn to recognize right from wrong and see the parent as a reliable support system in times of uncertainty. Parents should also establish technology usage boundaries and supervision mandates with their teens. This way the teen knows the parent is involved in their online life, and parents can check in when necessary.
Parents and those working with teens can attend Jessica Yaffa’s Teens, Technology, and Relationships workshop for tools to help teens navigate through dating and relationships online. Contact us today to learn more about the workshop.