A better approach to protect teens from online risks is to teach the coping strategies that improve resiliency and not abstinence, says a new study by Pennsylvania State researchers.
Researcher Haiyan Jia said that in the study, more resilient teens were less likely to suffer negative effects even if they were frequently online.
Jia added that internet exposure does not necessarily lead to negative effects, which means it is okay to go online, but the key seems to be learning how to cope with the stress of the experience and knowing how to reduce the chances of being exposed to online risk.
The researchers said that previous research tended to focus on limiting online use as a way to minimize risks of privacy violations and traumatic online experiences, but with online technologies becoming more ubiquitous and a greater part of teens' social and educational lives, abstinence may actually be less reliable and more harmful.
Pamela Wisniewski added that not allowing teens to use the Internet has its own risks, noting that as much as there are negatives associated with online use, there are also a lot of benefits to using online technologies. Parents should be aware that restricting online use completely could hurt their children educationally and socially.
Both parents and technology companies may be able to help teens become more resilient, as per researchers. Teens, who are exposed to minimal risks, can over time, develop coping strategies and be more resilient as new, more risky situations arise.
The researchers suggest that technology companies that create cyber-security software could design software solutions that alert teens to risky behavior in order to avoid relying solely on parental monitoring software that restricts certain websites and social media sites.