Talking to others, talking on the phone with friends and family, writing or looking and smiling at each other – communication is a basic human need! Young people prefer to exchange information via apps and social networks on their smartphones. They share experiences and experiences and process them in this way. They learn to resolve conflicts without parental support, to form their own opinions and to defend them. Friendships are cultivated by being in constant contact with each other.
Messenger apps are the most popular for communication. Most often used WhatsApp but also alternatives such as the Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Signal or Threema have many installed.
Communication via smartphones is a matter of course for young people and takes up a large part of their everyday lives. The smartphone is always at hand and represents a kind of social meeting place. Both in one-on-one chats and in group chats, opinions, pictures, and videos are exchanged, arguments are had, and jokes are made.
Being connected to friends via messenger creates a sense of belonging for young people.communicating via it seems private. However, the groups are often so large that there is no longer any question of privacy. The more anonymous group chats become, the greater the risk that they will be misused to spread false news and manipulate opinions. Another danger is that photos can be stored and sent unnoticed on other people’s devices. As convenient as messengers are, they also harbor risks – especially because young people send a lot of messages every day. It can cause stress if your child feels like they have to respond to messages immediately or is afraid they’ll miss something if they don’t look at their phone.
However, young people do not always act socially when they communicate with each other in messenger groups. Since you do not see the reaction of your counterpart directly and you want to impress others, insults are not uncommon. Under certain circumstances, this can lead to cyberbullying.
Also via social media apps like Instagram, Snapchat or TikTok is communicated. Often, this type of sharing is limited to pictures and videos and liking or commenting. This communication is especially important when it comes to self-expression and recognition. Selfies are sent and you expect a positive reaction from your followers, who are mostly friends and acquaintances. However, stress or insults may occur here as well.
It is also common among gamers to exchange information while gaming – for example, via channels such as Discord and Teamspeak.
It is precisely via platforms that strangers can also write to young people in order to make closer contact with them. This can be harmless, but criminal, e.g. pedophilic intentions, can also be behind it.
As convenient as communication via the Internet is, potential risks should be known. Ask your child what channels they use and who they chat with. However, be mindful of his or her privacy and give your child the space he or she needs. Agree on security rules, e.g. which pictures and videos may be sent via which route. Advise your child to post certain photos only on private channels or groups. Be responsive to uncertainties and problems.
With younger children, you can go through the Messenger settings together. Disabling read receipts takes the pressure off, so your son or daughter doesn’t have to feel like they have to respond to a message right away. Pay attention to who your child can chat with and show them the function to block contacts.
You can agree on rules for communicating with your child, setting a good standard for your child’s exchanges with friends.