Teen talk: What it's like to grow up online, and the role of parents: Lock and Code S03E21

Teen talk: What it’s like to grow up online, and the role of parents: Lock and Code S03E21

Growing up is different for teens today. 

Issues with identity, self-expression, bullying, fitting in, and trusting your friends and family—while all those certainly existed decades ago, they were never magnified in quite the same way that they are today, and that’s largely because of one enormous difference: The Internet. 

On the Internet, the lines of friendship are re-enforced and blurred by comments or likes on photos and videos. Bullying can reach outside of schools, in harmful texts or messages posted online. Entirely normal feelings of isolation can be negatively preyed upon in online forums where users almost radicalize one another by sharing anti-social theories and beliefs. And the opportunity to compare one’s self against another—another who is taller, or thinner, or a different color, or who lives somewhere else or has more friends—never goes away. 

The Internet is forever present for our youngest generation, and, from what we know, it’s hurting a lot of them. 

In 2021, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveyed nearly 8,000 high school students in the country and found that children today were sadder, more hopeless, and more likely to have contemplated suicide than just 12 years prior.

Despite the concerns, we still thrust children into the Internet today, either to complete a homework assignment, or to create an email account to register for other online accounts, or to simply talk with their friends. We also repeatedly post photos of them online, often without discussing whether they want that. 

In today’s episode of Lock and Code with host David Ruiz, we speak to two guests so that we can better understand what it is like to grow up online today and what the challenges are of raising children in this same environment now. 

Our first guest, Nitya Sharma, is a Bay Area teenager who speaks with us about the difficulties of managing her time online and in trying to meet friends and complete homework, the traps of trading online interaction with in-person socializing, and what she would do differently with her children, if she ever started a family, in preparing them for the Internet.

“I think the things that kids find on the Internet, they’re going to find anyways. I probably found some stuff too young and it was bad… I think it’s more of, I don’t want them to become dependent on it.”

But our episode doesn’t end there, as we also bring in 1Password co-founder Sara Teare to discuss how parents can help their kids navigate the Internet today and in the future. Teare’s keenly attuned to this subject, not only because she is a parent, but also because her company has partnered with Malwarebytes to release new reserach this week on growing up and raising kids online. Here is the full report: “Forever connected: The realities of parenting and growing up online.” 

Tune in today to hear both Nitya’s stories and Sara’s advice on growing up and raising children online. 

You can also find us on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Google Podcasts, plus whatever preferred podcast platform you use.

Show notes and credits:

Intro Music: “Spellbound” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License
Outro Music: “Good God” by Wowa (unminus.com)