Parents of teenagers cringe when they think about their kids’ online safety, especially as new websites and social channels like Yik Yak sprout up. The days of kids and teens playing outside and taking a break from technology are over, especially when you consider the fact that an astonishing 53% of kids get cell phones when they’re just six years old, according to a study by vouchercloud. The fact that parents are buying their kids cell phones that early is a huge cause for concern in itself, but what’s more important is the data that says that kids are using their phones for another reason:
The Pew Research Center recently conducted a report titled, “Teens, Technology and Romantic Relationships,” which details how teens in the U.S. between the ages of 13-17 are using technology for romance. Yes, I said romance.
According to the survey, which was conducted with both online surveys and in-person teen focus groups, 35% of teens have dated, hooked up, or have been romantically involved at some point in their young lives, setting the baseline for the survey.
Believe it or not, there is some good news here for parents. Despite 57% of teens reporting that they’ve made friends online, 76% said they’ve only dated someone that they’ve met offline, and only 8% reported dating or hooking up with someone they first met online. For those reporting that they met a romantic partner online, the majority cited Facebook as the source of first digital interaction.
The Digital Flirting Venue
Parents may be relieved after hearing of the low percentage of teens dating and hooking up with a person they met online, but social media and digital as a whole still serve as an arena for flirting. The study revealed that 55% of teens have flirted or talked to someone they were interested in offline, while 50% of teens reported that they used Facebook or another social media platform to friend or follow someone who they were interested in.
Now, we certainly can’t fault teens for wanting to connect socially with someone they have a crush on, but 10% reported having sent flirty or sexy photos/videos of themselves to another person, with 7% even having made a video for their online counterpart—this is where parents need to start paying more attention to their kids’ online actions.
At an age where teens are still evolving and growing emotionally, physically, and hormonally, social media provides them an outlet to explore. And while it’s certainly a necessary part of teen growth—depending which side you take—there are times where teens can go overboard and get inappropriate, per the study, and it’s usually males who are the offenders.
I say that because Pew’s research shows that 35% of teen females reported having to unfriend or even block someone who made them uncomfortable on social media, while 16% of males reported having to take the same action.
You saw Facebook cited earlier as a popular social network for online teen interaction, and social media altogether is a popular avenue for teens to interact with their significant other, ranking as the third-most popular digital avenue, at 70%. Text messaging of course was No. 1, with 92% of teens reporting this as their favorite means of communication with their partner, and talking on the phone—which may come as a surprise—came in second, with 87% of teens dialing in with their counterpart.
For what it’s worth, being together in person ranked as the fourth-most popular option for teens, with 86% reporting spending time with their significant other outside of school hours.
In the end, parents will never be able to fully police their teens’ online habits, so the point of this post is to simply make them aware of how the majority of teens are using social media and digital for romantics.
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