By Diana Simeon
It’s no secret that teenagers can experience social media stress. But you may be surprised to learn what’s causing your middle schooler the most distress on social media.
Their best friends.
That’s according to a study commissioned by CNN, called Being Thirteen. “Forty-two percent reported having a serious conflict with someone online at least monthly,” says Robert Faris, Ph.D., a sociologist at the University of California Davis who worked with CNN on the study. “And the majority of them said it was with friends … and we’re not talking about Facebook friends, we’re talking about close friends.”
In fact, 56 percent of respondents reported that friends were the source of their most serious online conflicts, followed by other schoolmates (48 %), former romantic partners (37 %), strangers (33 %), and current romantic partners (21 %).
What Helps Social Media Stress?
The good news: parental monitoring helps buffer middle schoolers from the stress of this kind of online conflict. But Faris is quick to note that doesn’t mean parents need to track their middle schoolers every online moment.
“Even the most well-intentioned parents don’t usually keep track of everything that kids are doing online, but it turns out that effort matters,” says Faris. “Parents who try to monitor their kids’ social media behavior, those kids were not as distressed by conflicts.”
In other words, even more casual levels of monitoring offers a protective effect for middle schoolers when it comes to social media stress. Here are some ideas to getting started with monitoring your middle schooler.
Be upfront about monitoring. Going behind your middle schooler’s back will only breed distrust and resentment. Tell your middle schooler that you reserve the right to periodically check his or her social media activity, texts, and other apps to see what’s up. Your message: at this age, it’s about safety and learning to use these powerful devices responsibly.
Also talk to middle schoolers about appropriate online behavior, while also working with them to fix social media mistakes when necessary.
Diana Simeon is managing editor of Your Teen.