A study of 1,000 parents of 13 to 18-year-olds found that although 66 per cent think self-expression is important, 40 per cent fear their offspring are saying TOO much online.
According to the research, the most popular topics to discuss in the online world for those aged 13 to 18 are friendships (46 per cent), school (43 per cent), social issues (30 per cent) and mental health (28 per cent).
But despite parents’ concerns of their teen’s openness, nearly a quarter (23 per cent) confess they still shy away from discussing online safety – largely due to a lack of knowledge and understanding of social media.
And it’s not just parents who are struggling, as 22 per cent of teens find it embarrassing to talk about important matters with their parents and guardians.
In fact, 44 per cent prefer to chat to their friends via text rather than speak to their parents –whereas their parents, at the same age, would have turned to a diary to open up about their thoughts or feelings (37 per cent) or would speak with a friend on the landline (35 per cent).
The study was commissioned by Snapchat to mark the launch of its Take My Words initiative, which is encouraging parents to share their old diary entries or a letter to their younger self to help establish common ground for more open conversations with teens.
Starting the ‘difficult’ conversations
Says Dr Nihara Krause, adolescent psychologist and teen expert: “The need for privacy is a natural part of growing up.
“However, parents want to feel reassured that their teens are being safe online, and getting the balance right is tricky.
“Knowing where to start can feel like a minefield, but thinking about shared experiences is a good place to start.”
“Starting a discussion about online interactions and setting boundaries will also help to create clarity between parents, carers and teens.
“Once boundaries are established, parents and teens essentially have a ‘contract’ of expected behaviour on both sides in place that can help avoid conflict in the future.”
The research went on to find that of those who used have used a diary or journal, relationships (65 per cent) were the most common topic they would write about.
This was followed by detailing their thoughts about friendships (45 per cent) and sex (38 per cent).
While these were also popular platforms to open up about mental health issues (32 per cent) and sexuality (30 per cent).
Adds Ed Couchman, UK general manager at Snapchat:
“As a parent of two teen girls, I know first-hand these conversations can be tough.
“For many parents, the challenge is knowing where and how to start. We want to help parents get the conversation started.”
The Take My Word initiative is now open for submissions and the most poignant examples will be hosted in an online gallery for parents and teens from November 16th.