Parenting Resources

Helping Teens and Adolescents Build Quality Friendships

Adolescents are immersed in social media, so screen time seems to take up more of their lives, and, unfortunately is negatively impacting their ability to make friendships and interpret others’ emotions. 

Social media can also present an ‘unreal’ or fantasy world to the adolescent as friends photoshop images, determine self-worth by ‘likes’, and ‘unfriend’ someone simply with a click.

Even more significantly, screen time impacts the relationship adolescents have with their parents.

Several studies show that more Internet use is associated with less family time and decreased quality of family relationships.  One longitudinal study of 976 youth in Dunedin, New Zealand, found “screen time was associated with poor attachment to parents and peers in 2 cohorts of adolescents 16 years apart.”  (Richards R, et al.  Adolescent Screen Time and Attachment to Parents and Peers.  Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med  2010;164(3):258-262.)

Adolescents need and benefit from parental support, encouragement and limit setting in order to navigate the social media scene. 

 

The following are tips and suggestions for parents to help their teens better understand the meaning of friendship and establish quality relationships:

  • Look for opportunities discuss the difference between real and virtual friends with your adolescent.  Some young people become depressed, or have even committed suicide when their social media virtual friends “unfriend,” them. 
  • Ask your child who they feel closer to, a friend they ‘hang out” with, or someone online.  If they say online, be curious, not questioning about why (less intimidating than asking “why.”)
  • Even popular adolescents struggle with confidence and a positive self-image.  Look for ways to reinforce your child’s unique abilities without going overboard, and compliment them when they actively seek, build and work at maintaining good relationships.

Adolescents may also need coaching in social and communication skills as noted for younger children above. If your teen does not have friends, or has friends who are a negative influence, make sure to contact your pediatrician or health care professional for help.