During the teenage years, your child is learning about responsibility and is forming his identity, and the interactions he has with other teens can be an important factor. In fact, many teens spend more time interacting with their peers than with their family, according to KidsHealth.org. In order to make sure your teen is experiencing healthy social development, it is important to understand how teens interact with each other and how you can encourage positive interactions.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teens are developing a deeper capacity for caring and forming more intimate relationships among peers. Friendships among teens provide stability during a period with a lot of changes and transitions that can be stressful. In addition, the acceptance, advice and social skill development that teen relationships provide, the University of Illinois Extension also states that teen interactions help to develop conflict-resolution skills.
Since teens are developing a stronger sense of identity, they have a tendency to compare themselves to their peers, which can lead to low self-esteem and competitive behavior. The University of Illinois Extension warns that during the teen years, there is increased contact with the opposite sex. Although forming relationships with the opposite sex can provide practice in the areas of cooperation and relationship development, break-ups during the teen years can be especially intense and devastating. Finally, the pressure to fit in with a peer group can cause some teens to participate in activities they would not normally be comfortable with, like drinking or smoking, just to gain approval.
In 2010, The Nielsen Company found that the average American teen sent and received more than 3,000 texts a month. Text messaging has become a form of primary communication and is often faster and more convenient than making a phone call, especially to the teen demographic. Combined with the popularity of social media, which can lead to over-sharing, teens are able to spread information more rapidly than ever. However, the benefit of quick communication also reduces the experience of face-to-face conversation, making some teen interactions seem less personal.
Ask questions about your teen’s friends and social life to gauge whether he is interacting positively with his peers. Set limits regarding his curfew and extracurricular activities, and follow through with consequences consistently. Encourage your teen to see and talk to his friends regularly rather than relying solely on phone or computer communication. Finally, teach your teen to trust his judgment when it comes to situations with peer pressure, and encourage him to talk to a trusted adult if he has trouble relating to other teens.