Learning about Youth Online Peer Support

For better or for worse, the Internet has had profound effects on the ways that people connect.

When I was younger, face-to-face interactions and phone calls with peers I saw at school or extracurricular activities largely shaped the landscape of my social life.

Now, with a plethora of apps, platforms, and online forums, it has become possible not only to contact people who share similar interests in different areas and time zones, but to begin and maintain regular correspondence with them. This can sometimes lay the foundation for online friendships between people who may never have met otherwise. If you are a parent or caregiver of a teenager, it is important to remember that online discourse may extend beyond memes and favorite movies and into questions about life and searches for support during times of isolation or anguish.

How would you proceed if your teen told you that an online friend was struggling with thoughts of self-harm or suicide?

Student talking on cell phone on campus. UF/IFAS Photo by Marisol Amador.

A publication from the UF/IFAS Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences explores the emotional importance of close and dependable online friendships and discusses a few ways to support your teen if they are supporting an online friend through a crisis. These include but are not limited to performing check-ins, communicating about the importance of friendships and healthy boundaries, engaging in active listening, prioritizing everyone’s safety, and encouraging your teen to share their feelings, successes, and struggles with you and to get enough rest. The publication addresses important and potentially difficult questions when it comes to navigating youth online peer support in the context of a mental health struggle.

The publication also provides a list of resources for both adults and teens who need support during mental health-related struggles or crises.

To learn more about youth online peer support, mental health, and stress management, Ask IFAS.


Posted: February 12, 2024

Category: Home Management, Relationships & Family, Work & Life
Tags: Department Of Family Youth And Community Sciences, Mental Health, Parents, Peer Support, Social Media, Youth

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