Childern and techSocial media has become interwoven into the fabric of contemporary adolescence. Young people rely heavily on social media for communication, interaction, and the dissemination of information.
Use of social media amongst adolescent children is evolving at an unprecedented pace, and with potential implications for their wellbeing. To understand these implications, there needs to be wider collective awareness of the different types and uses of social networking sites, their impacts on the wellbeing of teenagers, and an understanding of the opportunities made available by them. While conversations surrounding social media and teenagers tend to veer into negative territory, it’s also worthwhile considering the many positive effects of social media on teenagers.
68% of teenagers claim that social media provides them with support during difficult times
46% of teenage girls agree that social media empowers them to speak out about the things they care about
83% of teenagers say that social media makes them feel more connected to their friends
The Positive Effects Of Social Media On Teenagers
“I am optimistic about what smartphones and social media can do for people. I am thrilled to see kids learning on smartphones, doctors using apps to diagnose diseases, and marginalized groups such as gay and lesbian students finding support they never had before through social networks.” – Melinda Gates.
1. Spreading Kindness & Social Awareness
A teenager’s desire to discover new information, explore new ideas, express themselves, and be interconnected has a profound impact on their social media engagement. They use various social networking sites, especially Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, as a way of giving voice to the voiceless. They can do this through starting awareness pages for minority groups, or advocating equal rights through posting or sharing supportive messages. Social media is a great platform upon which teenagers can begin to champion their own rights, and the rights of others. In fact, a report into youth mental health actively recommended use of “online initiatives to improve access, appeal, and affordability of mental health services”, and collaborative online initiatives can play a major role in supporting children who are engaging in suicidal ideation.
2. Educational Benefits
Teenagers use social media platforms such as Facebook in order to complete collaborative assignments. It provides a space for them to share and discuss ideas, plan and delegate tasks, and upload and provide feedback on completed works. Also, social media itself can actually be an educational resource – with social networking sites such as YouTube and Wikipedia being heavily referenced as a source of information. Finally, sites like YouTube have an endless supply of educational videos that help teenagers to develop or refine various skills, such as cooking, fixing household items, or speaking other languages. Some YouTube videos also provide objective overviews of important contemporary issues that can help teenagers to become engaged and make informed decisions.
3. Real World Skills
Through using social networking sites, teenagers learn to confidently interact in a range of different social contexts online, which is essential to their digital development. Engaging with different people in various different environments over the internet strengthens online proficiency and gives teenagers an understanding of appropriate digital discourse. During adolescence, children are being prepared for tertiary education and their eventual integration into the workforce, and this requires a strong understanding of responsible online behaviours and an ability to constructively contribute within a collaborative online space.
4. Enhancing Creativity
Social media refers to online services that enable users to connect with other users, and create and share content. One of the positive effects of social media on teenagers is that it encourages them to think outside of the box and exercise creativity in how they engage with their audience and friends. Furthermore, given that they make up the vast majority of people using social networking sites, teenagers are at the forefront of moulding the future of social media.
5. Confidence & Independence
Engaging on social networking sites can be a new adventure for young people. It is like exploring a new place where different skills are needed. Young people learn to mould their character to be more confident and independent in order to be heard or have a positive online presence. This eventually transfers to their daily lives.
6. Interconnectivity & Identity
Social media is capable of building and extending teenagers’ personal and collective identities. During adolescence, teenagers have access to newfound independence, and begin to form and experiment with new identities. Social media provides them with the necessary freedom to self-discover through trial and error. In the online world, teenagers feel safe seeking support for issues they wouldn’t otherwise feel comfortable discussing, such as mental health, sexuality, and reproductive health. Today’s youth rely on social media in order to raise and spread awareness, share in their experiences, and combat stigma. Teenagers who are able to be vulnerable online can establish relationships that are based on mutual trust and empathy, which can have truly positive effects on their health and wellbeing.
7. Tolerance & Diversity
Social media not only allows but encourages teenagers to connect with other teenagers from different cultural, lingual, religious, and ethnic backgrounds – and explore a range of diverse ideas. This broadens teenagers’ scope of reference and teaches them tolerance.
Since its inception, social media has been the topic of contentious debate. While its popularity and prevalence has only grown, many are still dubious about its overall value to society, and to young people in particular. Yet, for some reason, teenagers themselves are often left out of the conversation about the positive effects social media can have in their life. However, contrary to popular belief…
Social media does not make all teenagers feel worse about their own lives
The majority of teenagers do not feel pressured to post images or content on social media that makes their life look good to other people
Most teenagers do see social media as a positive space that provides them with comfort and support
Social media is a space that’s powered by people, and can, therefore, echo people’s very best intentions, as well as their very worst; those who seek to hurt others are emboldened by the internet, yet the same can be said for those who seek only to help others. So, while there are risks associated with it, there are also numerous positive effects of social media on teenagers, and – with vigilant risk management and ongoing support and education – social media can be a fun, educational, and safe space for our children and teenagers.