How many friends do you have? Virtually?
That can be a big issue for kids on Facebook and other social networking sites. It can be like what peer pressure is in the hallways of the schools today but put it into the screens of technology.
There is no bigger transition for your kids than the one from high school to college. Many of them will suddenly be living on their own for the first time, meeting new people, and experiencing all the freedom that comes with a college lifestyle. But, what happens when your teen is attempting to make that transition too quickly? While social media will be one of the prominent forms of communication in the future, and it’s a great way for your teen to expand their knowledge and connect with new friends, it is also a widely unmonitored public space that can become very persuasive and addictive.
If your teen is friends online with a large amount of college-age students, he or she could be running the risk of too much too soon. There are surely many positive things that can stem from friendships with college students, but keep some of these warning signs in mind if you have an inkling that any of these relationships have gone too far:
1. They have suddenly changed top choices for college. If your teen has had their mind set on attending an East coast private school for years, and now they have suddenly decided that the local state school is the only choice for them, you may want to put your radar up. There is absolutely nothing wrong with changing your mind. This can happen frequently in a college search as priorities change, financing becomes more clear, and high school friends start to make their own college choices. But, if you have a teen who has suddenly gone from one extreme to the other, there may be more going on than a simple change of preference. Trying talking to your teen about why they have changed their mind to determine whether they still have the same priorities in order. Attending a school that is not the best choice simply to follow a college crush or become accepted in a local sorority could be a bad decision.
2. They are staying out later or spending the night at friends’ houses more often. This type of behavior could become more and more common the older your teen gets. There aren’t too many kids who don’t try to bend the rules once in a while. And it’s pretty common to want to be out of the house as much as possible as pre-teens reach full-on teenage years. But, if you sense a connection between this behavior and recent social media connections, your child could be getting in over his or her head trying to hang out with much older and more experienced college students.
3. They are online all the time and get angry when you cut them off. Social media friendships are great. And, even if they exist between your teen and and older crowd, you definitely don’t need to be worried straight off the bat. Most teens these days have an internet and social media addiction that is a tiny bit troubling to parents of an older generation, but that is simply the way of the times. However, if your child has shown very strange behavior or attachments to social media and internet time that goes a bit beyond fun and games, then he or she may be connected to an age group that has the ability to stay online during any hour of the day and night.
4. They are posting risque photos. This is another issue that many modern parents have to deal with. No matter how much you have prepared your children for the realities of life, shown them to respect themselves, or required them to follow certain rules for dress and behavior, there is no stopping what your children post online, unless you restrict access completely. Kids will be kids, and many of us remember being young and feeling the pressure to seem and feel attractive to others. If you find that your child has suddenly starting posting images or comments that are much more relevant to a college audience or that somehow neglect the fact that they still live at home, your teens could be trying to impress a community of much older students.
5. They no longer do the things they once loved. Changes in hobbies and passions are simply a part of growing up. There are plenty of teens who want to be dancers one year and doctors the next. But, if you sense a sudden change in your teen’s most beloved parts of life, then there could be something deeper going on. You probably know your child pretty well (as much as you may feel like you don’t sometimes!) and you know what they truly love and how they most like to spend their time. If you find that they are suddenly ignoring parts of themselves that used to bring them joy and pride, then some form of outside pressure could be pushing them to conform to a sense of identity that is not truly their own.
Special contributor: Maria Rainier is a freelance blogger and writer for onlinedegrees.org.
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