Considerations for youth and social networking – Part 2: Who to friend

Help youth make decisions about who they should friend on social networking sites.

According to a 2015 Pew Research, 71 percent of teenagers 13-17 years old are using at least one social network site. With the high usage of social networking, there are a variety of factors adults must consider when helping youth navigate their usage of social networking sites. Helping youth understand who they should send friend or follower requests to and accept a friend or following request from is an important topic adults should be discussing with youth.

The term “friend” can mistakenly lead people to believe they are friendlier than their actual relationship. Therefore, it is important to set some guidelines to help youth decided who to friend or follow. Michigan State University Extension has some information all parents and adults working with youth should consider when creating these guidelines:

  • Only send and accept friend, following, follower requests from people you know in real life.
  • Remind youth that social networking websites have the potential of displaying a lot of personal information, as well as personal photos and opinions. It is important to help youth understand the in-person relationships they have with their friends and followers.
  • Set some expectations on who you feel comfortable with them friending and following.

Even with creating some guidelines for youth, adults are still going to need to monitor youth’s decisions on who they choose to friend or follow. At times you may have concerns about the decisions youth are making. These concerns need to be dealt with in a respectful and calm manner. Explain the reasoning behind your concerns and listen to the youth’s side. Then, work towards coming to a consensus about who they will friend or follow in the future. Setting a hard line and forbidding something could push youth to create accounts you are unaware of. Therefore, as a parent, volunteer or other adult working with youth, it is important you are talking to youth about how they are using social networking.

Technology changes, apps come and go, and the next in social media platform will come about, but that doesn’t change the guidelines youth should be using to determine who to friend or follow. Adults should continually be reminding youth that nothing ever goes away once posted to a social networking site, and it can come back to haunt them in the future.

Check out the previous article in this series below, and watch for future articles that will explore topics of privacy settings, boundaries and sharing photos more in depth.

Other articles in series

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