Social Media Influence on Teenagers

It should come as no surprise that the pressure to be available 24/7 on social media is a very real challenge for today's teenagers. Aside from the fact that their grasp of and dependence on social media far exceeds that of many adults, they also are using social media at much greater rates too.

Today, children and teens grow up in a world of cell phones and constant online connections. Technology and social media can be a positive way for us to connect. At the same time, the negative effects they can have on developing minds can be dangerous.

Three Negative Impacts of Social Media

  • Increased pressure to fit in. Teens will always be interested in fitting in with their peers, but technology magnifies the problem. Most people show off only the positive moments, such as going to social events and reaching milestones, when they are portraying themselves online. Despite the fact that everyone has problems, the negatives are barely highlighted. Because of this, teenagers scroll through a seemingly perfect newsfeed that makes it more likely for them to feel left out.

  • Decreased social skills. More screen time means less time communicating face to face. For teens, interacting with peers is about more than just words. It’s about learning to read body language and understand vocal tonality, too. Relying on social media or texting to stay in touch can isolate individuals and prevent them from developing the social skills they need in the real world.

  • The effect of decreased social skills and cyberbullying go hand in hand. Being able to talk to each other at the touch of the button takes the ability to bully to another level. With less effort and the ability to hide behind the screen, teens can expose each other’s secrets and spread rumors online, which can lead to severe consequences for those who feel socially isolated or targeted. In most cases, they feel embarrassed or that their reputation is ruined. In the worst cases, the devastation can lead to suicide.

Other Social Media Risks

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, other social media risks include:

  • Exposure to harmful or inappropriate content

  • Exposure to dangerous people

  • Oversharing personal information

  • Exposure to excessive advertisements

  • Privacy concerns, including the collection of data about teen users

  • Identity theft or being hacked

  • Interference with sleep, exercise, homework, or family activities

Because so much brain development takes place during the teen years, it is important that parents understand the impact that social media use can have on their kids. For this reason, it is important to establish guidelines for social media use.

It's also important for families to have regular discussions on how to use social media responsibly and safely. When families navigate the world of social media together, a teen's online world becomes much more manageable.