Teens and digital wisdom: Give them a round of applause

by Sue Scheff

Sue Scheff

Sue Scheff

We often hear negative news about teens and how they use digital media. But research shows that teens can actually show adults a few things about being cyber-savvy.

This doesn’t mean that parents need to step aside; on the contrary, it means our offline chats should be full of discussion about what happens online. We can, and should, learn and share our digital wisdom with each other.

Where do we start?

Teens Want To Improve Their Health.

Did you know that nearly one-third of teenagers say they use online data to improve their own health and to look up the health concerns of their friends and family? According to a new study, Teens, Health and Technology, by researchers at Northwestern University, teens turn to digital resources for health issues such as depression, nutrition, puberty, sex, depression, and even hygiene questions and more.

It seems teenagers use the Internet to empower themselves with knowledge about health and wellness so they can take better care of themselves and others.

Teens Can Be Kind, Online and Off.

According to a Stage of Life survey, 95 percent of teens have performed random acts of kindness both online and offline and 56 percent of them have done this repeatedly!

When the teenagers in this survey were asked to write about kindness, topics that emerged were:

Kindness Doesn’t Have to be Big: Many teens learned that kindness, especially a random act, doesn’t have to be a grand gesture to be significant. Being kind is as simple as sharing a smile with a sad stranger or giving a dollar to a homeless person.
Kindness Can Save Lives: Of course, big acts of kindness can literally save lives. Some teens wrote about times strangers helped them when they or their parents were hurt. Sometimes, a stranger’s kindness snapped these teens out of an awful depression and gave them a better direction in life.
Volunteering is Rewarding: While all people love being on the receiving end of an act of kindness, many teens discovered how great being kind to others felt. These teens found a new sense of self while helping homeless people in the city or serving food in a church.
Random Acts Should be Regular: Kindness makes everyone feel better, so why limit random acts of kindness to prompted challenges? Try being kind all the time! It won’t hurt anyone.

Teens and Online Reputation.

A Kaplan Prep Test survey reports that college admission recruiters are having a more difficult time finding negative content about potential students when compared to previous years.

“In fact, 35 percent of students said that if a college admissions officer were to visit their social networking page(s), what they found would actually help their chances of getting in. Only 3 percent said it would hurt their chances; 62 percent said it would make no difference.”

Does this mean that the many articles, resources, education and awareness about digital citizenship and online reputation has, finally, been sinking in? It appears so.

Takeaway tips:

• They’re listening! Never stop chatting about online safety and social media behavior.
• Parents, you are teens’ primary influence and role model – offline and online.
• Offline chats can be about online behavior and safety. Have them frequently. Keep in mind, you must walk what you talk, or it is meaningless. Model good online and offline behavior. Your kids are watching.

Sue Scheff is an author and parent advocate. She founded Parents’ Universal Resource Experts, Inc in 2001. You can find Sue on Twitter at @SueSheff. Read more about her here.