Our two oldest daughters are best friends.
The eldest, a teenager, sees herself as a sort of guide for her little sister, a pre-teen.
They both share the same interests, art and anime. They share secrets. They stay up long hours chatting away about nonsensical things.
My kids also bond over social media, specifically Instagram, the elder sister teaching her young apprentice the tips and tricks for curating and sharing the best content.
They post silly pictures, favorite art and anime clips, and they use the platform as a way to celebrate their sisterhood.
I follow them on Instagram. I’m a snoop, an over-protective father, and I need to be sure no one is posting inappropriate content.
I’m also genuinely interested in seeing how they and their friends are using social media to cultivate relationships. I learn so much about how to use social media simply through observation.
Turns out they’re much better at this whole social media thing than most of us.
They know the importance of being lighthearted, and how to not take themselves (or life) too seriously.
Our teens and pre-teens see the benefits of using social media and how those benefits far outweigh the costs.
A Pew Research Center study released recently suggests that many teens know the costs of using social media, and they understand the challenges of growing up with technology.
They also realize the benefits to using technology, such as staying better connected to friends and learning about the world.
According to the study, teens say they sometimes feel “overwhelmed by the drama on social media and pressure to construct only positive images of themselves, they simultaneously credit these online platforms with several positive outcomes – including strengthening friendships.”
Teens also like seeing different ideas, values and opinions, and helping fellow teens with important causes.
Of the 13- to 17-year-olds surveyed, 81-percent said social media made them feel “more connected to what’s going on in their friends’ lives,” and 68-percent said social media made them feel as if they had people who would “support them through tough times.”
Many teens had positive rather than negative emotions about their social media use. For example, 71-percent said they felt included (as opposed to excluded) and 69-percent felt confident (as opposed to insecure).
Some also recognized the negative aspects, such as the 45 percent who felt a little overwhelmed by the drama on social media, and 37 percent who felt pressure to only post content that would generate a lot of comments and likes.
Like my daughters who see the value in using social media to learn about the world and connect with friends, it’s clear that other teens see those same benefits. And when we see those benefits through the eyes of our children, it allows us to reassess the value we see in our own uses of social media.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is special assistant to the provost and professor of communication in the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA where he also directs the graduate program in professional communication. He researches and writes on a variety of topics including communication technologies, relationships, and sports (with an emphasis on fandom). His work has appeared in Mahoning Matters as well as The Vindicator and Tribune-Chronicle newspapers.