Parents Monitoring Teen's Internet Use: Is It Okay

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Internet penetration across the world has shaped the communication sector. Currently, it is the most used medium of communication attributed with increased availability of Smartphones. In the U.S, 95% of teens have access to smartphones and at least nine out of ten access the internet more than once per day. Social media are the widely used platform with 35% on Snap chat, 32% YouTube, 15% Instagram, 10% Facebook, whiles only a few percentages logging in on Tumblr, Reddit, and or Twitter (Pew Research Center, 2018). These figures will only keep rising as justified by the same study done in 2015, whereby 73% of teens had smartphones (Pew Research Center, 2015). There is a growing concern on the various psychosocial effects that may arise due to teens getting addicted to internet use. These effects are uncontrollable, damaging and present a big problem in healthy internet use (Christakis & Moreno, 2009). According to several studies and media reports, there are strong possible links between overuse of the Internet by teens and the negative health consequences such as depression, attention-deficiency and alcohol abuse (Ko et al., 2009; Yoo et al., 2004; Ko et al., 2008). Internet addiction has also led to negative effects in academics such as low grades and missed classes which can ultimately lead to academic dismissal (Kubey, 2001). However, online communication if used in a positive way can add great benefits to society. For instance, it enables for an easier and effective connectivity with family and friends and helps facilitate the formation of new relations leading to increased social support (Kraut et al., 2002). The vast array of platforms that social media boasts, for example, social networking sites, photo and video sharing sites, instant messaging apps, blogs, wikis, podcasts and others allow people all over the world share information and connect with ease and efficiency (Mahmoud et al., 2008). 

Teens view how social media have affected their lives differently, as reported by Pew Research Center (2018); on the positive side, 40% respondents said the internet assisted them to keep in touch and interact with others. 16% cited greater access to news and information, 9% entertainment, and 7% said it offered space for self-expression. On the other side, 27% of the respondents’ link social media with increased bullying and overall spread of rumours, and another 17% feel these platforms lead to less meaningful human interactions thereby harming relationships. So far we have seen the internet can not only be a very dangerous place for teens, but also a hub of information and communication, hence parents are cautioned by the media and their respective government agencies to carefully monitor their children’s behaviour online (Rosen, Cheever, & Carrier, 2008). This can, however, lead to teens’ perception that parents are intruding in their privacy and feel overly controlled especially when the strategies used by the parents are in contrast with the teen’s willingness to reveal their online behaviour. Often the teens will poorly adjust in their adolescence stage, for instance, they will have low self-esteem, depression, and conflicts within the family (Kakihara et al., 2010; Hawk et al., 2009). This is why it is important to gauge your teens’ invasion perception of their privacy with regard to the monitoring strategy applied, bearing in mind that too much freedom increases teens’ risk for problem behaviours (Dishion, Nelson, & Bullock, 2004), hence parents must strive to achieve a balance between tools used in monitoring and teens perceived privacy invasion levels (Goldstein et al., 2005).

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