Having friends and hanging out with them after school and on weekends is what most people think about when they think about teenagers and their friends. No one really thinks about being concerned. It seems harmless and it’s part of being a teenager. However, with the advancement of technology and the rapid changes in society, this has changed. It now is necessary for parents to be concerned about who their teen has as a friend and what they are doing.
Now with the Internet and such things as Facebook, teens face a number of different issues. One issue is the number of friends they have. Teens are looking at Facebook pages and see that people claim to have 400, 500 friends. They look at their page and they have 50 and they start to worry what is wrong with them. But they fail to stop and think no one can have 500 close friends. The person has acquaintances or they just sent out a bunch of invitations, but it is impossible to know 500 people closely. Also the number of friends you have, has nothing to do with who you are as a person.
Another issue teens are facing with the Internet is cyber bullying. It is very easy to say very mean cruel things when you can hide behind a computer and no one knows who you are. However, the target of the bullying can feel like their world is falling a part and feel their life is hopeless. They may see suicide as a way out. Suicide in teens is now the 3rd leading cause of death for kids 10 to 18 and the rate is increasing every year. We also have seen a tremendous increase in school shootings. The teen who usually does the shooting is a teen that feels powerless and that no one cares about him.
A very important issue that this has exacerbated is the need to feel accepted by their peers. Teens will do anything to feel accepted. They are using drugs, stealing, beating up other kids, anything they are being asked to do by the group. In the Alive & Free Movement, we refer to these as “”fearships.” Teens are doing things because they are afraid of being rejected by the group. The group leaders are intimidating other teens into doing these dangerous things so they feel important and worthy. This is not a friendship. A friend accepts you for who you are and they don’t intimidate you into doing things that might get you killed or arrested.
This is why parents need to get to know their teenager’s friends. If you think they are involved in a fearship you need to talk to your teen and you may need to forbid them from hanging out with these kids.
Also parents need to talk to their teenagers about what a real friendship is and how friends act. A friend accepts you for who you are they don’t demand changes. They are there to support you during difficult times and friends don’t want to see you hurt. If you are doing something that could get you in trouble or hurt you a friend will tell you to stop. Parents many teens are still figuring these issues out. This is why you need to talk to your teens about friends and why you need to get to know their friends.
Dr Michael Rubino has over 18 years experience working with teens and their parents. For more information about his work or private practice please visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com