- Social media is often frowned upon in terms of its impact on teens’ wellbeing, but the truth is that there are both pros and cons to their social media use.
- One pro is that social media encourages friendship and interpersonal connection: it helps teens fulfill their social needs.
- Also, it helps kids learn about other places and cultures they wouldn’t otherwise experience, and it serves as a creative outlet.
- As mentioned previously, there are cons as well: social media use can lead to anxiety, provide a breeding ground for bullying, and influence bad behavior.
- If teens only experience positive feelings after spending time on Instagram or Snapchat, then their social media use likely isn’t an issue
- On the other hand, if they feel anxious or depressed and spend an ample amount of time engaging on social media, their habits could likely use an intervention.
The Pros of Social Media
While social media often gets a bad rap, it isn’t all bad. Kids utilize different social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat for good, too! “One of the pros of social media is that it encourages friendships. Also, social media helps kids learn about other cultures and places all over the world,” Emily Mendez, mental health writer and expert, explains.
First, social media was designed to connect. It offers kids and teens another opportunity for connecting with their friends and therefore for fulfilling their social needs. Secondly, it serves as an educational tool. Think about it: there are hundreds if not thousands of Instagram accounts dedicated to showcasing the beauties of the world. If other kids and teens today are anything like my little brother, these accounts fill their feeds.
Additionally, social media serves as a form of creative expression. When I was a teen, Myspace was all the rage. My friends and I would spend hours editing our profiles—changing our layouts, our backgrounds, our profile pictures, our bios—which channeled our creative juices and even taught us how to code websites in the process. Today, Myspace isn’t so popular, as it’s been pushed out of the spotlight by Instagram and Snapchat. But still, today’s teens use these social media platforms to express themselves and put their personalities on display.
The Cons of Social Media
All of that said, social media can be dangerous for teens, in that it may lead to anxiety, assist in cyberbullying, and play a part in influencing bad behavior, as explained by Mendez: “Social media can have some very negative effects too. It can cause kids to feel anxious when they see social media influencers doing things that they are not able to do. It is also easy for kids and teens to bully one another on social media. Many of the apps that young people use are photo-based, which opens up a lot of opportunity for negative comments. Other kids may encourage dangerous or abusive behavior, such as what was seen in the Tide Pod challenges.”
Oftentimes, teens are sensitive. Their brains are still developing, and their mental/emotional health is vulnerable; just one cruel comment left on an Instagram picture can send them into a negative tailspin. They’re at a heightened risk of experiencing anxiety and depression as a result of this form of bullying, or as a result of FOMO: the fear of missing out. When teens see other people on social media doing things they want to do but can’t, their mental health can suffer. Finally, kids and teens are extremely impressionable, and social media may inspire them to engage in troublesome behavior. Mendez refers to the Tide Pod challenge as an example, in which kids posted videos of themselves ingesting liquid laundry detergent pods.
Finding a Healthy Balance
As with most anything else, the key here is finding the proper balance and understanding what healthy social media use looks like. Teens who log on to Instagram and Snapchat here and there, likely don’t have to worry about their habits. Those who spend a copious amount of time on their phone or computer, however, might want to dial it back. In any case, teens can take care of their mental health and spend time on social media by considering the following:
1) How do I feel after scrolling through Instagram or watching Snapchat stories?
If you only experience positive feelings, then everything is probably A-okay. If, on the other hand, they experience FOMO, anxious or depressive thoughts or feelings, or any other form of negativity, then it might be worth reevaluating their social media habits.
2) Do I still spend time interacting and connecting with people offline?
If social media is your primary means of socializing and connecting with others, this signifies a problem. You should strive to maintain positive interpersonal relationships with your loved ones in your everyday life. If you need help tuning back in to reality, start monitoring how much time you spend on social media and consider cutting back.