Today children learn about the internet and its power to connect people earlier than most parents want it to happen. If you are a parent, chances are you get worried when your children show tendencies to speak to and be friendly with strangers. This feeling is even made worse when you learn that your children show friends with strangers online. The truth is that the internet poses many dangers to your child if you don't act fast. You don't need to be impulsive and ban your children from the internet just because you feel they can get harmed. Instead, you should focus on helping your child learn how to make new friends online in a safe way, also protecting them from some social medias that will minimize the dangers the internet pose.
- Part 1: Why Are Teens Making Friends Online?
- Part 2: Is It Wise for Teens to Make Friends Online?
- Part 3: Where and How to Make New Friends Online?
- Part 4: What Should Teens Be Aware of When Making Friends Online
- Part 5: What Should Parents Do When Kids are Making Friends Online?
- Part 6: FAQ About Making Friends Online
- Final Words
Why Are Teens Making Friends Online?
The truth is that we are all social animals. We always seek out others like us so that we can be friends even if we don't know each other yet. Teens are flocking the internet to make friends for several reasons. Some of the most common reasons why teens prefer to make friends online include:
It is easier than in real life
Making friends in real life can be tough for teens. In schools, children end up in groups comprising of those in the same interest groups. For example in high schools, athletes will tend to be friends and move in a group of their own, those good in academics will also form their group and so will those with other interests. This can be intimidating to teenagers still discovering themselves. But online, all such barriers are removed, and making friends easier than ever.
It is easier to find people with common interests
Social media sites allow users to form groups around their interests. For example, there are groups of fans of every great musician and every great sports personality. It is the formation of such groups that make it easy to find people with the same interests. This makes it easy to start the conversation with teens and to form strong friendships.
It is easier to be themselves
There is no stage in life where one wants to fit in than in teenage years. This makes it impossible for someone to be honest about who they are. Many teenagers lie because they want to fit into their groups. On social media, most of the people you interact with don't know you in person. This allows teens to be honest about who they are and this makes such a relationship more meaningful to them because they don't have to pretend about anything.
They can find special interest groups
Many teenagers with personal struggles don't want to be friends with just anybody. The problem is that in real life it is impossible to identify someone with the same struggles. But online it becomes easy. For example, if a teen is beginning to identify as an LGBTQI+ person, the teen will want to relate to teens in a similar situation. However, it may not be possible if the teen lives in a conservative society. However, the internet makes it easy to find such special interest groups.
Is It Wise for Teens to Make Friends Online?
As a parent you may be asking yourself, is it safe for my teenage daughter or son to make friends online? The truth is that just like in real life making friends online has its benefits and a few potential pitfalls. To be able to properly guide your child on how best to make friends online it is important to know both.
Benefits of Making Friends Online for Teens:
Allowing your teenage child to make friends online comes with many benefits. Some of the benefits of making friends online for teens include:
As a teen, your child is still exploring the world and discovering themselves. This means that they are still tinkering with things and trying to identify their interests. Letting them freely explore the online space will help the child find common interests with others and even form a friendship that will last a lifetime around the common interests
Often children who have fewer friends tend to be less confident and find it hard interacting with people in social settings. The internet makes it easy for your child to meet others and make friendships. This helps boost their confidence and self-esteem as they interact with many others online daily.
If your child finds that it's hard for him/her to make friends, then the internet can help. When online others within your locality, social group or even school will be more than willing to reach out to your child and hang out. This will help your child make friends more easily.
The internet generally erases geographical barriers and making it easy to connect with people from across the world. If your child is interested in learning about different cultures then the internet is the best place to make friends from across the world.
Potential Pitfalls of Making Friends Online for Teens
Often the internet makes it easy for people to pretend to be who they are not. Many drug traffickers targeting schools and even pedophiles go online and pretend to be teens. This can be a potential danger to your child when online.
It's common for you to befriend someone online, invest months of constant communication and then all of a sudden they stop talking to you. For a young mind being ghosted can be a very painful experience. This is especially if the individual has difficulties making friends in real life.
Meeting people online is easy but it is quite difficult to hang out with the same people in real life. This can hurt the teen. The teen may become antisocial because all his/her friends are online. This can make things very difficult for the individual when it's time to hang out in a public place.
Trolls are everywhere. When you are open to friendships on the internet you are likely to bump into many trolls. These are individuals who will pretend to be your friends but will take every opportunity to make fun of what you post. While this may seem like just kids jokes trolls can hurt the self-esteem of teens and even drive them to suicide.
Where and How to Make New Friends Online?
To rip the benefits of making friends online you need to guide your teenage children on where and how to make friends on the internet. To help you here are some safe places where your children can safely make friends.
There are many study groups on the internet and mostly on social media. Usually, these study groups are created around school grades and subject areas. If your child joins a study group for his/her school year then he/she is likely to only meet and make friends with people who are his/her age and most likely in the same grade. This is a safe group compared to the people found in other areas of the internet where people may pretend to be who they are not.
There are also groups around hobbies such as dance groups, kids' environmental conservation groups, drama clubs and even sports events groups all over the internet. Joining hobby specific groups for given age groups gives your child a real chance of meeting people of the same age who have the same interests. This makes it easy to make friends in a safe way on the internet.
Social media as a whole can be a dangerous place for teens and children to try and make friends, especially in some adult social media. And there always are some inquiries from parents, for example, is Snapchat safe for kids, is Omegle safe for kids and so on. Luckily there are many children and teen-centered social media that only permit people below 17 years. Such social media sites and apps provide a haven for your teens to make friends online.
Playing online games is a popular fun activity for teens and older children. Your children can make lots of friends by playing online games. It is important you carefully select platforms that are safe for your teens to play these games. Moreover, the time length of playing online games should be controlled.
A fandom is simply a large community of fans, supporters or people who are passionate about something. People join a fandom with one goal to participate in something. You can help your child find educational and supportive fandoms online. Here they will meet people with the same interests and will contribute positively to the community as they make friends.
A forum is more like a fandom but a forum is designed to discussing issues. Joining a forum on any particular issue will help your child hone their critical thinking skills, become better communicators and most importantly forge long-lasting friendships.
What Should Teens Be Aware of When Making Friends Online
Remember to ensure that your teens know the dangers of being online. Some of the important things you need to ensure they are aware of include:
Never give personal details online
People who know you will not want to ask for personal information such as what is your full name, where do you live, where do your parents work, what are their names etc. Someone asking your child such information might be a criminal. Teach your child never give out such personal information to someone they met online.
To Always Be Respectful
One of the biggest problems online is bullying. Trolls are everywhere but teach your child to always be respectful. One of the best ways to make the internet a safe place for our children is to teach every child to be respectful when on the internet no matter the situation.
Know How To Block And Report Inappropriate Content
Adult content, content that talks about crime and other evils in the society often find their ways around the internet and into places we consider safe for children such as social media dedicated to underage people. To help keep your children stay safe online make sure that you teach them about inappropriate content and how to block and report such content. This also applies to inappropriate chats. When someone begins to use sexually lewd language or ask for money or threaten your child, the child should know how to block and report such an individual.
Know That Social Media Can Be Addictive
You should make sure that your child knows when it's the right time to log off and leave the internet. The internet and social media channels can be addictive. You don't want your child spending too much time on social media at the expense of other areas of life.
What Should Parents Do When Kids are Making Friends Online?
As a parent, there are several things you can do to protect your child when they are making friends online. Some of the things you can do include:
The best way to protect your child when online is to use privacy settings on the devices and third-party parental control software. Depending on the kind of device your child is using to access the internet make sure that you set privacy settings to protect your child from being tracked and from accessing sensitive sites and applications.
You can also invest in third-party child control applications such as KidsGuard Pro. KidsGuard Pro is compatible with both Android - KidsGuard Pro for Androidand iOS devices - KidsGuard Pro for iOS. With KidsGuard Pro,you will be able to monitor sites and application your child use in real-time. You will also be able to read your child's text messages and chats, view photos and even track their cell phone location. With this tool KidsGuard Pro, you will know what your child is up to in real-time and provide the right guidance for them.
People with bad intentions will try to convince your child to chat in private. Have a talk with your child about this and let them know that it can be the beginning of big problems. Let them avoid private chat even if the person asking for it has been their friend online for ages.
It is important to teach your kids to be open about the kind of friends they have online. Talk about their online friends, their interests, where they study and any other publicly available information. This will help you know the kind of company your child keeps online and how best to help him/her.
The internet is full of many bad things. Your child is bound to be bullied, trolled or may bump into adult content or any other inappropriate content. Encourage them to talk about such things. This way you will be able not only to provide the right psychological guidance but you will be to address the issue with authorities and even the platform involved. You will also be able to teach your child how to cope in such situations.
The internet is all about sharing information and ideas in a safe and friendly environment. However, a lot of people take advantage of the fact that they are not being seen to be aggressive. Talk about aggressive behavior on the internet and the need for safe sharing. This is important for your children to know not just about their safety but also the safety of others on the internet.
Remember to keep an eye on the apps, games and even sites your children are using. This is where tools such as KidsGuard Pro for Android and KidsGuard Pro for iOS are very important. KidsGuard Pro will help you keep an eye on your child without the need of having to get hold of their phone. This way you will know everything they do online and how best to help them.
FAQ About Making Friends Online
Q1. Should Teens Meet Up With Online Friends in Real Life?
The FBI advises that teens should not meet in real life strangers they encountered online. However, online friends sometimes become permanent friendships and there is no need in forcing your child not to meet their online friend. However, there are a few safety measures to be observed. First, as a parent carry out a background check on the friend to your child. If everything tick then allows them to meet but must meet during the day and in the presence of a trusted adult.
Q2. Do Online Friends Count as Real Friends?
Most friends we have online aren't real friends. They are "people we know" sort of friendship. However, if the friendship goes beyond occasional chats to help each other out with things like a school assignment, daily planning, and other chores that can be done over the internet then such friends count as real friends.
Q3. How Long Does Online Friendship Last?
Generally, most online friendships are short-lived often lasting less than a year or so. However, in some cases, people meet online, then in real life, and become friends for life.
Making friends online is an inevitable adventure for kids and teenagers. However, as a parent, you have every right to be concerned. The key is to know how to help your children navigate the murky waters of internet friend-making. In this article, we have look at important areas you need to focus on. However, the most important thing to remember is that the best way to help your children is by knowing what they are up to. Investing in a tool such as KidsGuard Pro will help you easily monitor your children's online activities so that you will be able to provide the right guidance when and as it is needed.