In seventh grade my best friend, Shannan, and I would put on dance shows for each other and pretend we were married to members of Duran Duran. Today your average middle-schooler is Snapchatting with her crush, posting selfies on Instagram and watching TV shows with jaw-dropping plots—all at the same time—whether you know it or not. While staying on top of your media-savvy kid is harder than keeping up with the Kardashians, the good news is that it’s worth it. “More than 15 years of research shows that when it comes to decisions about sex, for example, parents are the most powerful influence on their teens, even more than TV or kids’ peers,” says Marisa Nightingale, senior media advisor for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. We mined exclusive new survey data on teens and social media from The National Campaign, analyzed the latest studies and interviewed top experts on TV, Twitter and more to help you boost your digital IQ. Here’s what’s happening online—and some advice on the most important conversations you’ll ever have offline.
What Teens Say
"It’s TMI when she talks about her own life, but when my mom kept it on-screen by explaining something sexual that happened in a movie, it was helpful.”
—Noa, 14, Tulsa, OK*
“Parents try to talk to you about sex in high school—which is way too late. The younger, the better. In middle school you encounter kids of all different ages—and experiences.”
—Romalous, 17, Jacksonville, FL
“My parents and I had a talk after we watched a news story about a girl getting fired for an inappropriate Facebook post from her younger days.”
—Shreyas, 14, Aston, PA
Fact: 53% of teen girls say their parents have talked with them about a real-life sexual situation because of something that happened on a TV show they watched together. One-third said Mom or Dad did so after they saw a show separately.
For more conversation starters, tips for managing social media and advice from real teens check out these blog posts:
Unless otherwise noted, data presented here are drawn from an online survey of 1,000 teen girls ages 13 to 16 conducted for The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy in March 2015 by Penn Schoen Berland, a global communications firm. The margin of error for total respondents is +/–3.1% at the 95% confidence level. *Quotes are from a discussion held exclusively for Family Circle by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy with the members of its Youth Leadership Team. For more information, visit thenationalcampaign.org.