According to the American Academy of Pediatrics' HealthyChildren.org, teenagers are at a stage where independence is key 1. That said, it's likely that your teen is interested in spending more of her time with her peers instead of her family. While she will still use you as her home base, your teen is exploring her social options, hanging out with friends and most likely in constant contact with other kids.
The days of a watchful adult telling a group of kids to "play nice" is long gone by the teenage years. Cliques -- groups of teens who are more concerned with keeping other kids out than actually acting as real friends -- are common social structures in the high school environment 2. As friends become increasingly more important to your child, it's likely that he will feel the need to fit in to his middle or high school's social scene. Although you want your teen to have friends, the pediatric pros at the Kids Health website caution parents that cliques can cause problems when teens act in inappropriate or unhealthy ways -- such as smoking or crash dieting -- simply to please the leader or when they are rejected by the group 2. Talk to your teen about cliques, whether you suspect that he is being influenced by one or not, to help him understand that his real friends won't ask him to do things that he thinks are wrong or ostracize him for acting as an individual.
Unlike exclusionary cliques, friend groups focus more on shared beliefs, values and interests. For example, your dramatic teen may become fast friends with the other kids in her school's theater club or feel like she really "fits in" with the other young painters in her after-school art class. Friendship groups who don't oust other kids for not conforming to their expectations can provide a positive way for teens to practice social skills, get support and engage in activities with others who enjoy doing the same things that they do.
While high school is certainly a social place, not all teen friendships revolve around a group of other kids. Teen-to-teen friendships provide a more intimate way for kids to socialize and find emotional support. Having a "best friend" during the teen years may include a much more socially complex relationship than it did as a younger child. For example, your preschooler's BFF is probably a neighborhood pal or a day care classmate with whom he enjoys tossing a ball or zooming cars around your living room. When it comes to discussing fears, worries or life joys, your 4 year old turns to you instead of his best friend to talk to. On the other hand, your teen's best friend takes on more of a central role in his life. It's likely, and completely normal, for your teen to act like he trusts his BFF more than his mom or confide in this special friend, telling him secrets that he wouldn't say to family members.
While you may have spent the majority of your own teen years chatting on the phone and passing notes in study hall, the contemporary child has a much more tech-savvy approach to socialization. Social media use is a popular way for teens to connect with their real-life, and online, friends 5. According to the Pew Research Center's statistics, most teens have roughly 300 Facebook friends. Socializing through online sources allows your teen to instantly connect with all of her friends at one time, keep in constant contact and share personal information at a lightning quick speed. Although there are certainly positive aspects of using social media -- a report by Common Sense Media states that 29 percent of teens feel that social networking decreases shyness and 15 percent say it gives them a better self-image -- there are also negative consequences that your teen may not think about 5. Posting pictures and personal information on a public site can leave your teen vulnerable to adult predators who are online. Talk to your teen about social media safety before she posts anything.
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