Social media is currently all the rage among children, adolescents, and adults alike. From keeping you connected with friends and relatives to providing access to communities of like-minded individuals, social media has a range of use cases and various types of effects on teens in today’s age.
Statistics Related to Social Media and Kids
According to a report, 45% of teens believe that social media has neither a positive nor negative impact on people of their age. But, 31% of them believe that social media has a positive impact, while 24% say that social media has negative effects.
This wide range of opinions shows how confusing it can be to decide on whether social media is good for kids and if so, how much?
In this article we will have a closer look at why social media is good for teens, the negative effects of social media on children and how to go about regulating its usage.
Social media and kids: How can social media affect a teenager
Social media is a two-edged sword. The effects of social media on kids are both positive and negative.
Although social media is useful in developing the social and cognitive skills of children, most parents worry that over-exposure to technology might affect the development of their kids.
Rightly so, a recent survey about children and social media, conducted on 14-24 years olds in the UK studied the social media effects on teens. The results indicated that children who are addicted to Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter were prone to developing depression, anxiety, poor body image, and loneliness.
That said, it is difficult to find children who do not want to use some form of social media.
The number of teens that use social media more than once a day has doubled since 2012.
95% of teens have access to a smartphone, and 45% agree that they are online almost constantly.
About 1/3 of teens say social media is important in their life.
While most parents don’t want to keep their child devoid of technological advancements, all parents need to ensure that their children are safe, secure and focused.
The 3 risks of social media: Why is Social Media Bad for Kids
- Cyber bullying
With social media comes the possibility of cyberbullying. Because platforms do not need those users to use or share their real identities, some people are emboldened to say cruel and hurtful things to others. Because children are impressionable, they can take these comments to heart.
- Invasion of privacy
Children are naïve and trusting, which is why they may freely share private information with strangers on the internet, such as where they live, go to school, who their parents are and where they work.
- Exposure to predators
It is no secret that social media is a hub and hunting ground for sexual predators and paedophiles. They bank on the naivety of children to form connections by pretending to also be children looking to make friends.
Why Social Media is Good for Teens
Although there are some dangers of social media for the youth, it has its positives. The social media effects on teens can be positive if its use is monitored by guardians and parents.
Socialization and communication
Social media sites are called ‘social’ for a reason. They allow your kids to socialize and communicate. They can connect with their friends, family, share pictures and exchange ideas. This boosts their social skills and also develops their personality. Even children who may have a hard time making friends in person can find communities of others that they fit in with.
A report revealed that 40% of teens believe that social media has a positive impact due to helping them stay in touch with others.
Digital media literacy
Social media acts as a quick gateway to the world of the internet for your kids. They can understand the nitty-gritty behind various technical aspects which could be otherwise tough to explain. They get to understand how to use the website and perform various tasks, improving their skills with technology for the future.
These skills can also be useful for parents who might need some help with the rapidly evolving world of technology!
Enhanced learning opportunities
Social media is widely used by school students to connect with one another on group projects. This way, they are able to collect and exchange ideas about assignments outside their class.
Additionally, your kids can also keep themselves updated on the latest advancements in technology, news updates, and the like. They can watch YouTube videos for homework tutorials and stay connected with news networks and educational organizations to learn better.
This is what is also believed by 16% of teenagers who report utilizing social media for greater access to news and information.
Social media facilitates collaborative learning, a skill that children, teens and young adults will need later on in life in the professional world. By connecting on social media, children are able to work on assignments as a team, brainstorm and finish a task.
Nowadays, students can connect on a given social platform and work on projects together, assign each other tasks, exchange ideas, defend their points, and most importantly teach each other.
Such a setting has many perks for students. They are able to make new friends that they wouldn’t have otherwise interacted with at school. Also, they develop their leadership, teamwork and organizational abilities.
By working successfully as a team on a group chat, students can learn to be more responsible, and work well with minimal supervision.
You might not have seen this coming but social media can actually boost the confidence in your kids, especially in shy and introverted teenagers who don’t like to communicate face-to-face.
With the help of social media, they can communicate effortlessly and this can boost their confidence immensely and provide more social and emotional support than they might be getting offline.
A study showed that college students who viewed their own Facebook profiles enjoyed a boost in self-esteem afterwards, similarly to how people like to look at themselves in the mirror before a date.
Increased awareness of security
One of the primary concerns of parents is the safety of their kids online. But kids are already well-aware of all these nuances. A study conducted by the Pew Research Centre revealed that around 60% of Facebook users in the age of 12-17 have set their profiles to private.
While there is still a long way to go in terms of security, it also shows that the majority of teenagers are already aware of their safety online and are likely to apply it to their real-life lives too.
What are the 5 Negative Effects of Social Media on Children
This section answers the question, ‘Why is social media bad for kids?’ While social media has its perks, its unregulated use can be dangerous.
Poor mental health
Time and again, social media is linked to poor mental health. A study conducted by the UK Office for National Statistics found that children who spend more than 3 hours per day on social media websites are twice more likely to suffer from poor mental health.
This is because their connection with the virtual world disconnects them from reality which has an adverse impact on their social and emotional development.
More recently, the University of Montreal compared various types of screen times – like playing video games, and found that the activity associated with social media triggers most depressive symptoms in teenagers.
This is because platforms like Instagram lets them compare the striking difference between their lives and idealized models and images in the news feed which makes them feel low.
Exposure to inappropriate content
The exposure of children to inappropriate content is a primary concern for parents when it comes to giving children access to phones, tablets, laptops and permission to create social media accounts.
These different social media platforms barely have any effective controls that can ensure that children are not exposed to explicit content such as pornography, self-harm and suicide related content.
According to a new survey, children are sometimes introduced to questionable online content shortly after they create their social media accounts.
For this study, some experts gathered information from real teenagers (13-17 years old) about their preferences and dislikes and generated avatars based on this information. Strangely, it wasn’t long before these avatar accounts began receiving a slew of inappropriate content.
According to Abi Perry, a researcher at Revealing Reality (in charge of the research), the phony accounts were subjected to graphic self-harm imagery as well as pictures of cuts and razors.
A survey conducted on 4,531 youths in South Korea between the ages of 11 and 14 revealed that 9.7% of the children were involved in cyberbullying. Out of these, 3.4% were perpetrators, 3.3% were victims and 3% were both.
A similar study conducted by Ipsos disclosed that 12% of parents around the world revealed that their kids are cyberbullied and 26% of them admitted that they know a child who has experienced cyberbullying. And of these, 60% of parents reported that the bullying occurred over social media networks like Facebook.
You can read more about cyberbullying in our other blog post here.
How many times have you felt jealous of your friend on social media who is vacationing in the Caribbean? Or of a distant relative who just got promoted?
This is how your kids feel when they are on social media. A study conducted on 881 college women who use Facebook regularly found that the more time children spent on social media, the more they were associated with negative feelings.
Another study also found that 32% of users feel sad about comparing their Facebook photos to those of their friends. These feelings are so strong that 37% of them feel they need to change certain parts of the body to look better.
Social media not only impacts your child emotionally and mentally, but it could also have an adverse impact on their habits. A study conducted on 1,563 tenth graders found that children who use social media exhibited risky adolescent behaviors like drinking, smoking, and doing drugs.
Tips to reduce the negative effects of social media
Clearly it is important to thoroughly discuss the consequences of using social media with children. Whether parents would like to allow their children to use social media some or not at all is up to them. After all, there are clear benefits to its use.
But the data shows that children need to be guided not to excessively use social media. Parents also need to take into account the various social media apps that their children are using. Then, educate themselves on what the apps are capable of, and ensure that their children are using them as safely as possible. For example, making sure the settings prevent strangers from messaging the child.
Talk to your children
The best way to safeguard your child from the dark side of the internet and social media is to start the conversation about phone usage and what they might be exposed to when they open different social media sites.
Ensure that there are lines of open, honest and transparent conversation. Children, especially teenagers are drawn to things they are forbidden from accessing.
Instead of making your child sneak around or go behind your back, have regular conversations about the kind of content that is on social media. Encourage them to ask questions, be responsible and transparent.
Let them know early enough about the effects of social media on teens, and how to enjoy the benefits while steering clear of the dangers of social media on the youth.
Limit screen time
One way to exercise control of what your children are exposed to is to limit their screen time. You can give them access to their phones for a limited amount of time, especially after exhibiting good behavior.
MMGuardian is one such tool that allows parents to have as much or little control as they want over their child’s phone and app use.
Track phone usage
To ensure that your children are exposed to the right kind of content, you can regularly check their browsing history, the apps they visited, and the kind of videos, pictures, links that they opened, interacted with or liked.
It is also essential that you ensure they are not cyberbullying anyone, or sharing explicit content with their friends. There are many software tools that can help you do this and more, like MMGuardian.
MMGuardian also includes a host of other features such as allowing parents to read all SMS, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp messages, location retrieval, Priority Alerts for sensitive subjects such as suicide, drugs, bullying, etc., Inappropriate Picture Detection, contact blocking, web filtering, and more!
Model good behavior
Like the saying goes, charity begins at home. Children usually imitate the behavior they see at home. Let your children see you behaving responsibly when you are using your phone. For example, do not spend too much time on your phone, or watch explicit videos in their presence.
Let them see you watching educational content or content that is harmless, funny and interesting without being explicit.
Whether parents want to completely block their child from using any form of social media, limit social media use, or only keep a watchful eye on how much time their child uses on social media, MMGuardian is the answer.
To get started with MMGuardian and receive a 14-day free trial, click here.
Consider also joining our Facebook group “Tech-Savvy Parenting” to discuss raising kids in the 21st century and the social media effects on teens with other parents.
Make sure that your child is able to make the most out of the internet. Do not let them fall into bad company. Do not let their identity be compromised. Keep them safe. All it takes is a bit of vigilance.