Youth Focus

Youth Focus Why do teens
do what they do? By Debra Wenzel
Clay Co. Extension Educator Certainly there are many adults who use social networking websites. But for parents who donâ�?�?t, the big question is why would teens put all of that personal information on the Internet? It may help parents to understand the appeal that social networking websites and other web features have for teens. Consider the world in which todayâ�?�?s teens have grown up. The media has made very public the personal lives of well-known people from entertainment, sports and political circles. Celebrities live out their lives in the limelight. Also consider the popularity of reality shows on television where again, people are living out a version of their life for all to see. Friends are everything to a teen. As todayâ�?�?s teens are growing up, they view the Internet as a place to "hang out" just as real world places are. Using the Internet to connect to friends they know in person and to make new friends is just a natural step. Those factors result in todayâ�?�?s teens being a self-publicizing generation. It is natural for them to put information out there. A developmental task for teens is figuring out their identity. For example, it is typical for teens to "try on" different identities through their clothing and hairstyle choices. Designing a webpage complete with favorite symbols, quotes and pictures can also be viewed as a way to â�?�?try onâ�? an identity or to test out an image. Tips for parents: â�?¢ Learn what your teen is doing on the Internet. One way is to ask your teen to help you with doing something on the web. â�?¢ Help teens know what is appropriate to put on the web. They have the web knowledge but you have life experience. â�?¢ Be clear about what is not safe to post on the web: full name, address, specific places they go, phone numbers, ethnic background and anything else that would help someone identify or locate them. â�?¢ Stress that the rules of social networking sites must be followed. There are age limits on most sites. â�?¢ Establish some limits on how much "screen time" your teen has, including time at the computer, watching TV or playing video games. â�?¢ Invite your teen to show you his web page. Give him a day or two of warning before looking at it. Some teens may â�?�?rethinkâ�? what they have posted. â�?¢ Consider joining the same website your teen is on. That way you can look at her/his page. Knowing this, teens will be much better at self-monitoring. â�?¢ Much of what is in the news recently about social networking has been negative. There are very serious privacy and safety issues. But, there are many positive things about these websites when used appropriately. â�?¢ Creation of a personal web page can be a very creative outlet for a teen. Frequent entries into an online blog can give teens practice in writing and expressing their thoughts and opinions. Teens are learning how to manipulate and use large amounts of information to a higher degree than previous generations. Teens are also learning skills needed to build a website and use other technologies. â�?¢ Good luck and enjoy the social networking sites! You may meet new people and develop friendships. â�?¢ My source for this weekâ�?�?s information came from Colleen Gengler, Family Relations Education, University of Minnesota Extension Service.

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