Since such a wide array of (sometimes less than wholesome) information and activities are available online, it can be a major source of anxiety for parents who wonder how their teenagers are spending their time on the internet. You may find yourself worrying if your teen is spending too much time on social media, poking around forums, or exploring age-inappropriate material. However, the desire to actively protect children from the outside world (often called helicopter parenting) can sometimes lead to fixating on the worst of possibilities and discounting the best.
When concerned about the integrity of your teen’s internet usage, the best approach may be to encourage activities with intellectual bases. Just take a look at these 8 ways teens can use the internet for good:
- Social media: While social media is often perceived as just another forum for useless chit-chat and gossip, it’s actually much more informationally dense than it seems. Consider that by simply scrolling through their feeds, teens are apprised of current events and news faster and more efficiently than previous generations could have ever imagined.
- Wikipedia: For school or for the sake of intellectual curiosity, the internet is an amazing resource for valuable information, particularly on a website such as Wikipedia. Most schools teach students online research skills, which improve the caliber of information your teen will be adding to his or her knowledge base.
- Podcasts: Podcasts are like radio programs available online. They’ve been increasing in popularity since their genesis as more types of programs continue to be created on virtually every topic — with a growing number intended just for teens. If your teen is at all inspired by podcasts as a medium, he or she might consider making his or her own. Podcasts aren’t difficult to make or broadcast, and they easily serve as fun, personal innovations, and original school projects.
- Codecademy: One of the most useful skills in today’s ever-expanding tech world is coding. Through free, online-learning modules, such as codeacademy.com, teens will enjoy learning how to create and design websites (that’s just the start)!
- Lumosity: Developed by a team of neuroscientists, lumosity.com is an online application that provides cognitive exercises through over 40 addictive games that are designed to train the brain into performing at maximum efficiency.
- Khan Academy: Similar to an online tutor, khanacademy.org is a free, world-class academic-coaching site that can help your teen improve in any number of academic subjects. The website breaks lessons down into bite-sized chunks and provides explanatory videos and accompanying exercises that supplement his or her in-class instruction.
- Fundraising Ventures: If your teen has a great idea that needs funding, the internet provides a far more effective way than mowing lawns to raise money: Fundraising websites allow anyone to present their cause to an online audience of potential donors. Among the popular fundraising sites is Indiegogo.com, on which 11-year-old Cash Ashkinos was able to raise thousands of dollars earlier this year to send himself to Camp Inc.’s 2015 summer camp (his latest campaign now is raising funds to send other potential campers to Camp Inc.).
- Trivia for Hunger: On the site freerice.com, teens can answer trivia questions on an academic subject of their choice. The questions start out easy and become progressively more advanced. With each correctly answered question, ten grains of rice are donated to the United Nations World Food Program.
In so many cases, teens aren’t aware of just how much they’re capable of accomplishing with a tool as valuable as the internet. Plus, summer programs like those offered by Camp Inc. can help them further develop skills for working with such modalities and realize their full potential to become skilled and successful innovators.