Social Media Effects on Teens: The Positives and Negatives 

Updated May 20, 2022
teenager eating chocolate on phone outddoor in street

Whether they are sending snaps, writing tweets or watching reels, most teens spend hours each day on social media. While you might only think of the negative effects that social media can have on teens, there are several positive effects as well. Discover the different ways that social media can affect teens, their self-image, and their relationships with their peers.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Social Media

Social media isn't all bad for teens. In many ways, social media can be a great outlet for teens to stay connected with one another and share their feelings when they are having a hard day. Their online friends can also be a great support system to them when they are going through a tough time. While social media can be a positive aspect of a teen's life, it also has negative effects on teens' health. Not only can it affect their mental health, but cyberbullying becomes much easier when you're hiding behind a keyboard. While the bully is faceless, the words are just as hurtful and have the same effect. Before going all out on social media, it is important to explore both the beneficial perks and the ugliness of favorite sites, like Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, etc.

Positive Effects of Social Media on Teens

friends using mobile phones while sitting at kitchen counter

There is a reason most of the kids on school campuses today can be found with their nose in their smartphone. They are checking their feeds, messaging their friends, or just laughing at a funny snap. Whether you are shy or outgoing, Snapchat and Instagram might be your favorite go-to places to keep connected with friends both near and far. And it isn't just about staying connected... social media has a lot of different benefits for teens.

Social Media Strengthens Teen Friendships

When you think of social media, cyberbullying might be the first thing that pops into your head. However, surprisingly, research shows that social media can actually help to strengthen friendships for teens. A study by Common Sense Media, showed that 52 percent of teens thought that their friendships were improved by social media, and 30 percent said it improves their confidence. This makes sense since social media gives you easy access to your friends. Not only can you talk to one friend, but you can have a group chat or just virtually hang out.

Social Media Reduces Teen Isolation

Sometimes this world is lonely. Maybe a teen is fighting with their bestie or just having a hard time connecting with people in school. Social media can help isolated or lonely teens. According to PyschCentral, lonely teens turn to social media platforms like Facebook and Snapchat to connect with friends. A study also showed that social media can help to curb loneliness over time, and improve mental, emotional and social well-being in some teens. Additionally, teens who are more introverted might not be as self-conscious on social media and thereby relate to their peers more.

Social Media Helps Teens Receive Support

When teens are having a bad day, sometimes a virtual hug is the next best thing to the real deal. Not only that, but with a few simple clicks of the keys, teens can share their bad day with friends to seek encouragement. According to a study by Pew Research Center, seven out of 10 teens feel that they get support from friends over social media when they are having a tough day. This happens more among girls at 73 percent, than for boys at 63 percent.

Social Media Gets Students Writing

Writing is writing. While social media writing is informal writing, these sites do get teens writing, which is important to communication development. And some teens get creative with their writing by creating poetry, memes, etc. that they share with their friends through sites like Instagram and Snapchat. Writing and communication don't just encompass academic writing. Texts and tweets help teens find their inner voice, according to Edutopia.

Social Media Enhances Global Connections

Gone are the days when you would send a friend in France a letter through snail mail. The emergence of social media lets teens connect with other teens all over the world in a few clicks. Not only does social media allow them to connect with kids across states, but they can gain friends from another country. And Google Translate ensures that they can semi-understand one another.

Social Media Offers a Creative Outlet

Social media like Pinterest and Instagram can open the door to creative outlets for teens. For example, a 16 year-old art student might share their art to gain feedback, or they might create a digital piece. An aspiring writer might share their words through unique tweets. The opportunities for teens to express their creativity on social media are endless, and their work will be viewed by all their friends.

Negative Effects of Social Media on Teens

Teenage boy using digital tablet

It isn't all just lollipops and rainbows in the social media world. When a teen logs on to their account, there are some very serious negative side effects that they could be exposed to. Not only are cyberbullies more aggressive, but social media can affect your mental and emotional health. Learn some of the pitfalls of popular social media sites.

Social Media Use Increases Depression and Anxiety

While the statistics aren't conclusive, many studies show that there is a correlation between the increase in suicidal thoughts and depression in teens with regard to social media use. One study points out how depression is on the rise, and one of the main changes between teens now and teens 10 years ago is social media and cell phones. Many researchers hypothesize that social media connections don't allow teens to make the deep connections that only face-to-face transactions can stimulate. Additionally, anxiety and stress can be exacerbated by social media. One wrong post or image, and millions of cyberbullies can attack.

Social Media and Cyberbullying

One of the greatest forms of social media abuse for teens is cyberbullying. Statistics show that nearly half of young people have been on the receiving end of online bullies. Instagram was a big culprit with a whopping 42 percent bully rate. Facebook came in a close second at 37 percent, while Snapchat trailed at 31 percent. With nearly three quarters of kids worrying about being bullied, this is a real problem on social media. In addition to bullying, social media also increases the instances of peer pressure for kids to do what is cool or trending.

Social Media Can Be Addictive

With kids spending so much time online on social media sites, it isn't surprising that teens are becoming addicted. Teens have a need to answer that message or complete their Snapchat streaks for the day. And not doing so can be nearly the end of the world. With teens spending as much as nine hours a day on social media, it is easy to see how addiction to social media can happen.

Social Media Affects Self-Esteem

Social media exposes teens and tweens to unrealistic standards from not only ads and other accounts, but from their friends as well. With beauty filters that can make your eyes bigger and your skin clearer, along with the right angles, any teen can be a supermodel. But this isn't real life. Teens who see this on social media can start to have unrealistic expectations for themselves that can lead to self-esteem issues with an unhealthy ideal body image. The personas that they create that are different from their real selves can also lead to anxiety and self-esteem issues.

Social Media Hinders Indirect Communication

Many professionals point out that social media communication has replaced face-to-face interaction and changed grammar and syntax through shortened versions and acronyms. The lack of communication can hinder a teen's ability to read body language and engage in a meaningful conversation away from a screen. It can also hinder their ability to form meaningful relationships in adulthood as well.

Social Media Creates a False Sense of Security

Not only can social media open the door for predators, but it can create a false sense of security for some teens. Since they only have people on their friends list, they might share more information than they would share in a chat room. But the problem is, many of their "friends" are people they don't truly know. For example, the average teen Facebook user has 300 friends who can see and share their information. With only 60 percent keeping their page private, teens can be found by child predators and lured by human traffickers.

The Power of Social Media

Social media is a powerful tool to connect teens with friends and family. Not only can they find the support they need, but they can also make friends around the world. However, social media can affect teens' self-esteem and mental health because of the unrealistic expectations found online. After learning the pros and cons, navigate the benefits and pitfalls of social media so you can make educated decisions about how to incorporate it into your life.

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Social Media Effects on Teens: The Positives and Negatives