Most teenagers cope with bad online experiences
Coping may be happening through other online interactions with friends or through support from social media communities
Are you worried about the consequences of your child encountering online risks, such as sexual soliciting, cyber-bullying and explicit material? Take heart as researchers have found that for most teenagers, the negative effects of such exposure vanish in less than a week.
"I think if there is a message here, it is that teenagers are being exposed a lot, but they bounce back and show resiliency," said Bridget McHugh, a leadership development consultant at Ohio State University in the US. "We're not exactly sure how they are learning the coping skills, but they are and that's good news," added McHugh, who worked on the study while a Ph.D student at University of Central Florida.
Coping may be happening through other online interactions with friends or through support from social media communities, McHugh said. The research, scheduled to be presented at the 2018 conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing in New York, involved 68 teenagers.
The researchers conducted a web-based diary study of the participants. They chronicled the participants' online experiences for eight weeks and used pre-validated psychological scales to assess how negative online experiences impacted their emotional state and well-being.
While they found that teenagers reported more negative emotions during the weeks they experienced cyber-bullying and explicit content, these effects were gone only a week later. "We absolutely acknowledge there are cases where teens experience severe online risks, such as cyber-bullying, that lead to long-term negative outcomes, like committing suicide," said study co-author Pamela Wisniewski, Assistant Professor at University of Central Florida.
"These are terrible, but they are also extreme cases. The good news is that in our study, we found that these extreme scenarios aren't the average teen experience," Wisniewski said. The researchers noted that teenagers do not often communicate about all the risks they encounter online because parents tend to overreact. Parents should help their children learn to manage risk, and that can happen only if there is open communication, Wisniewski said.