Social Media Use in Children and Teens: Is it Positive or Negative?

girl taking selfie
Social media platforms seem to be expanding every day. The sheer amount of social media platforms is overwhelming. There’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Tik Tok, and many more. The impact of social media can not be ignored. It has influenced almost every facet of life and is most definitely here to stay. This can be very difficult to accept, especially if you have children.

As a parent, you might be wondering what your child is doing on their phone, especially if they have social media accounts. We, of course, want our children to be safe both in person and online. When we see a child using social media, we may sometimes fear that their mental health and well-being are being compromised. It is completely natural to have this fear since the negative aspects of social media usage is all we hear about.

So, is social media negative? Or is it a source of positivity? This is often hotly debated, and honestly, there is no straightforward answer. Social media can, indeed, negatively impact your child’s mental health. But it can also be a wonderful outlet for your child to express creativity and develop self-image. With guidance, your child can use social media in a positive way. This blog post will address the negative impacts that social media can have, but it will also highlight the many positive things it can do for your child.

Negative Aspects of Social Media

Social media is such a staple of modern society that everyone should have at least some knowledge of the risks that go along with downloading and using online platforms. Social media can become hazardous when the user is not aware of the negative ways it can affect them. The following are some of those ways that could affect a child.

  1. Self-Esteem Issues
    One of the most noticeable issues about social media use is the way it seems to drain people of their self-esteem. Social media sites like Instagram and Tik Tok are plastered with people who look like models. Children see these men and women who are older than them, or even the same age as them, and compare themselves to these people. It seems to be human nature to compare yourself with someone else. Everybody does it occasionally. However, Instagram and Tik Tok make it even easier since there are so many of these “models.”

    When children are constantly comparing themselves to these models, their self-esteem can take a hit. They may see someone with what they perceive to be the perfect hair, eye color, or clothing and realize that they may not have that. Of course, we know that that does not devalue their self-worth in any way, but they might not see it that way. Talking to your child about this and reminding them that their uniqueness makes them beautiful are so important!

  2. Body Image Issues
    This goes hand in hand with self-esteem issues. Once again, people on Instagram and Tik Tok post the pictures and videos that they look the best in. Much of this content shows girls having slim waists and exaggerated body parts and shows boys having abs, broad shoulders, and strong arms. And children tend to look at these models’ bodies and see what they don’t have, even if they’re not even the same age. Young girls will want to be skinny, have big eyes and lips, among other things. Young boys will want to be strong and lean.

    But of course, these ideal bodies aren’t always obtainable. Children can get frustrated when they cannot look exactly like these models and may end up resenting their own bodies. This, then, can lead to harmful behavior, body dysmorphia, and even eating disorders. Having a conversation with your children about this is extremely important. Remind them that their bodies do not have to look like the ideal image of one.

Positive Aspects of Social Media

As demonstrated above, there are indeed some negative consequences of children using social media. However, there are so many positive uses that can come out of it as well with the proper guidance and education.

  1. Identity Development:
    Social media can really be a great tool for children to discover who they are. It’s a great way to discover new interests and hobbies while also providing a place to express themselves. It’s a place where your child can express himself or herself in ways that they maybe couldn’t before. It also sparks new interests. Social media platforms have videos on so many subjects. There are makeup tutorials, crafts, workout routines, and so much more. Young children, especially teenagers, often struggle with their identity. Using social media to learn new skills can help your child discover what he or she is truly passionate about. Not to mention that social media provides a fantastic outlet for creativity and these new skills!
  2. A Sense of Belonging and Connectedness:
    Sometimes, children who use social media are searching for more ways to feel connected in a world that can be cruel. It’s a great place for children to connect with likeminded people. Of course, it’s always wise to use caution when using social media to meet new people, and you should have a conversation with your child about its dangers. However, when used properly and safely, your child can foster friendships with people whom they might have never originally met. Not only that, but using social media can also help connect you and your child with family members who live too far or who you don’t see often. It’s a fantastic way to have a relationship with your family while making you and your child feel more connected and less lonely!
  3. Having a Voice:
    One of the best things about social media is that it gives everybody a voice when it, otherwise, wouldn’t be heard. If your child is passionate about something, no matter what it is, social media gives them a voice to be heard. It could be anything from animal rights, saving the environment, feminism, Black Lives Matter, or fighting stigmas surrounding those with disabilities and mental illness. It provides your child with an outlet for telling their story and sharing things that they’re passionate about.

    Your child doesn’t even need to speak out about these issues to want to have a voice on social media. Your child will have opinions of their own that they might want to share with the world. Social media provides children—and adults—with the opportunity to share their stories (if they’re comfortable) and be heard in a world where they might feel ignored. Having social media to use an outlet will help your child feel more empowered and may even help them build their self-esteem!

All in all, there is not a straightforward answer on whether or not social media is truly positive or negative. It is impossible to describe the good and bad aspects of social media in one blog post, and it is not necessarily good or bad. However, when it is used properly and safely, social media can be a powerful tool in developing your child’s self-esteem and identity. Children typically begin using social media as their identities are starting to develop. Educating your children on safe, fun ways to use social media is important and can provide a wonderful outlet for your child.

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