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Resilience, Not Abstinence, May Help Teens Battle Online Risk

By Penn State News

April 30, 2015

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Pennsylvania State University (PSU) researchers found helping keep teenagers safe on the Internet is best achieved by boosting their ability to cope with online risks, rather than trying to stop them from going online at all.

"Internet exposure does not necessarily lead to negative effects, which means it's okay to go online, but the key seems to be learning how to cope with the stress of the experience and knowing how to reduce the chances of being exposed to online risk," says PSU post-doctoral scholar Haiyan Jia.

With the proliferation of online technologies, keeping teens safe from risks by encouraging them to abstain from going online may be less reliable and more harmful, according to the researchers. "If risk is going to be present, we want to make sure to minimize the negative outcomes and make sure the teens are equipped to handle these experiences," says PSU post-doctoral scholar Pamela Wisniewski.

The researchers say parents and technology companies can help teens become more resilient, as teens who are exposed to minimal risk can develop coping strategies. For example, technology companies can create cybersecurity software solutions that alert teens to risky behavior.

The researchers studied responses of 75 teens to questions about how they used the Internet and what problems they encountered.

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