5 Reasons You Don't Need to Worry About Kids and Social Media

Discover the ways social media can be a force for good in the lives of kids and teens, and help them maximize the benefits. By Caroline Knorr
Topics: Social Media
5 Reasons You Don't Need to Worry About Kids and Social Media

From sexting to cyberbullying to FOMO, social media sure has its share of negatives. But, if it's all bad, how did 2,000 students protest their school system's budget cuts? How are teens leading the charge against cyberbullying? How did they organize a national school walkout day to protest gun laws? Easy: savvy use of social media. For a few years now, many teens have been saying that social media -- despite its flaws -- is mostly positive. And new research is shedding light on the good things that can happen when kids connect, share, and learn online. As kids begin to use tools such as Instagram, Snapchat, Twitterand even YouTube in earnest, they're learning the responsibility that comes with the power to broadcast to the world. You can help nurture the positive aspects by accepting how important social media is for kids and helping them find ways for it to add real value to their lives. For inspiration, here are some of the benefits of your kid being social media-savvy:

It lets them do good. Twitter, Facebook, and other large social networks expose kids to important issues and people from all over the world. Kids realize they have a voice they didn't have before and are doing everything from crowdfunding social justice projects to anonymously tweeting positive thoughts. Check out these sites that help kids do good.

It strengthens friendships. Studies, including Common Sense Media's Social Media, Social Life: How Teens View Their Digital Lives and the Pew Research Center's Teens, Technology and Friendships show that social media helps teens make friends and keep them.

It can offer a sense of belonging. While heavy social media use can isolate kids, a study conducted by Griffith University and the University of Queensland in Australia found that although American teens have fewer friends than their historical counterparts, they are less lonely than teens in past decades. They report feeling less isolated and have actually become more socially adept, partly due to an increase in technology use.  

It provides genuine support. Online acceptance -- whether a kid is interested in an unusual subject that isn't considered "cool" or is grappling with sexual identity -- can validate a marginalized kid. Suicidal teens can even get immediate access to quality support online. One example occurred on a Minecraft forum on Reddit when an entire online community used voice-conferencing software to talk a teen out of his decision to commit suicide.

It helps them express themselves. The popularity of fan fiction (original stories based on existing material that people write and upload online) proves how strong the desire for self-expression is. Both producers and performers can satisfy this need through social media. Digital technology allows kids to share their work with a wider audience and even collaborate with far-flung partners (an essential 21st-century skill). If they're really serious, social media can provide essential feedback for kids to hone their craft.

About Caroline Knorr

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As Common Sense Media's parenting editor, Caroline helps parents make sense of what’s going on in their kids' media lives. From games to cell phones to movies and more, if you're wondering "what’s the right age for…?"... Read more

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Comments (15)

Adult written by adreana

We have two girls 11 and 13 yr old. We haven't had a TV in 10 years and my kids don't have phones. And that is just a choice we made. We restrict any screen time ( on computer) to 3 hours a week. That works for us. We are letting our daughter get a phone in High School. Yes she is the only 7th grader without a phone. And she will survive :) Social Media is a slippery slope that can wait. As I tell my daughter if a friend is not going to be your friend because you don't have an instagram or snap chat acct or a phone for that matter then I would re consider. :). The article does talk about the positives of social media which there are plenty and when our eldest is in High School she can do it. As parents we will help her navigate the very confusing and scary world of the internet and all that comes with being a teenage girl that will have access to so much. We will also help her learn about all the positive ways that she can use the online media sites. Every family has to approach this important access in their own way. Hope that we can continue to learn from each other and support each other and ultimately be able to do so in person and not just online. Wish you all a relatively stress free day ♥️
Teen, 17 years old written by Mist1

I see comments on here that sound like genuine crap because it just looks like parents who hate technology and are trying to demolish it even though they probably use it more than us like when I saw a comment like this "My son doesn't use social media and actually communicates with others." it made me think of some dumb sassy ass response like "Have you heard of school? Try it."
Parent of a 14 year old written by WendiLau

This article covers how social media can be used, but, as parents know, social media does not provide real friendships or social interactions. When kids use their devices they withdraw from family and the real world. Rather than a tool for extending communication and organizing events, social media is mostly used for comparing self to others and creating general unhappiness over parties missed and false images of perfection perpetuated by disingenuous selfies. In reality, smartphones and social media pull our children further away from us AND their friends. Real friends will call and be willing to have a conversation or meet in person, even if it seems old-fashioned. Real friends see a worrisome text or picture and immediately call to find out what is going on. Parents can teach kids proper socialization without a device. In addition, almost all other research on smartphones, screen time, and social media use show a growing depression effect that has resulted in a 30-year high. This article may cause a parent to ignore her inner voice telling her something is wrong with her kids tuning out in their room or in the car for hours at a time. Childhood is a time to create memories cherished for the rest of our lives. What memories are social media addicts creating? Does the use of social media make her happier or unhappier? Use YOUR best judgement.
Parent of a 6, 8, and 10 year old written by Jill R.

I completely disagree with this article! The author has chosen to highlight a rare few exceptions in a positive light, rather than truthfully expose the negative effects on the vast majority. If an impressionable (‘typical’) youth is heavily engaged in social media, chances are extremely high that they are: Actually too young for the content (because parents willingly sign up underage kids to apps they shouldn’t participate in) Being exposed to emotionally damaging content they shouldn’t be (because their parents allowed it). Negatively impacted by cyber bullying, skewed political views or pornography .., Youth don’t need to be involved in social media to make a difference - and the minor changes that may happen certainly do not override the massive ‘negatives’ that frequently happen as a result of underage use of ‘social media’ and ‘popular apps’.
Adult written by Sandy R.

I'm confused. This article is dated 3/14/18, however, many comments are from 3 years ago. Things have changed drastically in the past 3 years as far as mental health concerns associated with our youth and the use of social media. Given the current predicament that Facebook finds itself in, and the many school shootings, I was hoping to find current information on this current concern. New article with updated information would be GREAT. Thank you CSM!
Parent of a 11 and 13 year old written by Sierra Filucci

Hi Sandy, This article was updated on 3/14/18 and the information is current. But you will find other articles on the site regarding privacy issues, which are certainly cause for concern. Thanks!
Parent of a 14 year old written by NickysMom2003

My nearly 14-year-old son can do all of those things without social media. He has no interest in having Facebook or other social media accounts and I'm more than happy with that. If people would go back to communicating WITH people instead of "following" or "liking" things, the world would be a much better place.
Parent of a 6, 8, and 10 year old written by Jill R.

Agreed! This article is anything but ‘common sense’ and I’m very disappointed that they chose to publish it on their site.
Adult written by Robert S. Reichmann

This is an important article. Too often we as parents have a hard time appreciating the opportunities that our kids want to be a part of on social media. At the same time, social media is not a zero sum game. There is no question that social media provides strong opportunity but with its power comes many challenges, especially to kids. Inexperience makes it far more common than we think for children to not recognize the potential danger of their activities or others activities towards them. Most often on our system at VISR.co we detect issues that children had no idea were potential issues. While kids need the ability to learn to make smart decisions, nobody understands consequences like a parent.
Adult written by slowcoast

I am conflicted with social media time for my 13 year old daughter. She is addicted and does nothing else if she is left to her own devices. When I take her phone away she starts doing crafts and participates in our family. She also figures out a way to use my phone to check her accounts. When she gets her phone back the cycle begins all over again. I don't have the time or energy to police her and wonder if she is using her phone all the time. I need to know what other families do for time allowance for this activity? I also think social media feeds on making kids always want things and also can be harmful to their self esteem. I look at Instagram and I mostly see teens posing on the beach in bathing suits. Help! I need input here.
Parent written by Silverbird1969

This sounds a lot like what is going on in my house. Except my daughter is only 11. Her father gave her a smartphone when she was 9. I've tried everything from restricting internet access with our router to restricting downloads & accessing from her devices. The best behavior I've seen is when she has had no access. It seems to be an endless cycle. I don't have answers but I suspect we are not alone. I think you're right to restrict it. It's easier sometimes to just let them get their way. It's never easy
Adult written by crato

I became acutely curious about the affects of the misuse of social media late last year. You see, our country has been plagued with multiple murder/suicides involving teens and young men, so I did some research and was appalled at Jaylen Freyberg's twitter page. DON'T GO THERE UNLESS YOU ARE PREPARED FOR SOME AWFUL/TRAGIC STUFF. Yes, it's still there, I unfortunately checked. Why Twitter??!! Jaylen was a "misuser" and an exception to the norm, but if I was a teacher and saw this content, (someone troubled and reaching out) I would have intervened a long before that fateful day. It's not the "safe" users that cause all of the tragedy. Jaylen was a beautiful, popular, athletic young man but I don't think he was mature enough for the things he was involved in and I am convinced that greater moral values are key to reversing our cultural difficulties. Who was mentoring Jaylen? Is sexual addiction, posted all over twitter, an acceptable behavior for a teen? Here: http://espn.go.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/12833146/instagram-account-un... is another story showcasing social media with an antithetical final chapter. Social media allowed Madison to live a facade. All this to say, social media can ALSO be useful as a "warning bulletin board", informing us of impending tragedy. Proper internet management, at the magnitude that I do as an IT professional with 2 teens at home takes so many hours per month, I am convinced that if teens are so shallow they have to depend on Social Media, I wish my kids would abstain altogether until a later age and manage their friendships the old fashioned way. I'll pull my head out of the sand at the 2nd coming.
Parent of a 18+, 18+, and 18+ year old written by mvjim

I think this is all accurate, except for Twitter. I love Facebook, for it can be life- and value-affirming. But I have never joined Twitter, because I keep hearing there is no one setting and maintaining standards like on Facebook.
Adult written by Colin Bridgewater

With all of the negative (and often hyperbolic) press surrounding kids and social media, I appreciate that CSM has published this piece about how kids are using social media in positive ways (and you offer direct links to some of those examples). I will definitely be able to use some of this information in my advisory and in middle school assemblies.