A quick Google search confirms my suspicions. All the dangers of Facebook for kids – everything from cyber bullying to sexual predators to misbehavior that can impact a child’s college admissions to a host of other issues – do indeed exist and there is already a wealth of information on the Internet that addresses these challenges. A similar search, one that seeks what is good for teens about the world’s most successful social network, comes back with far less information and advice.
So, the purpose of this column is to encourage you to look at the bright side, to see all the resources available for you and your teen to harness all the good that Facebook has to offer. Considering that this network of friends now claims more than 750 million active users, with that number increasing monthly, there is the potential to reap huge benefits for today’s youth who learn to use it to their advantage.
Facebook enhances a teen’s life in many ways. For example, it:
Provides Kids With a Sense of Belonging
First and foremost, it’s about making one-on-one friendships and of achieving a sense of social acceptance. Facebook, which reports that the average user has 130 friends, certainly makes it much easier for kids (even shy ones) to actively interact socially with many more youth than pre-Facebook generations had the opportunity to do. The key is to focus on connecting with others with whom they have something in common, rather than seeking quantity over quality of friends.
Helps Them Stay in Touch With Out of Town Friends
Facebook also is great to bridge the miles, giving kids the chance to stay connected with friends that live far away. Whether it’s a foreign exchange student befriended at school that has returned to their native country, a friend who has moved due to a parent’s job transfer to another city, a kid met at sleep away summer camp, a cousin who lives cross-country that’s in the same grade, or a variety of other healthy distance friendships, it’s a great way to communicate with those you care about that you might not see very often.
Connects Teens With Others Who Share Interests
Consider this, too: Facebook says that its average member is connected to 80 community pages, groups and events. This means there’s a much greater opportunity for kids to find others – outside their own tight circle of friends and immediate local communities – that are a closer fit to the same skill set of interests and aspirations that they have.
Makes Community Service More Accessible to Youth
While we’re on the subject of groups and events, this component of Facebook also gives teens the opportunity to learn about and get involved in charitable organizations and serving community. Unlike in the days before Facebook, finding and getting involved in a cause that you believe in locally, nationally, or even globally is as simple as logging on to the Internet.
I hope this gets you thinking about Facebook in new and positive ways. There really are so many other purposes where teens can apply this wonderful 21st century invention. It’s up to kids today to go out and harness everything helpful that Facebook has to offer – and for us moms to point them in the right direction.
What ways can you or your teen think of to add to this list where Facebook can actually be used for good? Please leave a comment below this post and share your ideas.
Note: The safety policy of Facebook does not permit children under 13 are to create a profile on it’s social network. So, this post is intended for parents and kids who meet the social network’s minimum age requirement.