There is no doubt that social media use is a favorite activity among teens. According to a national study conducted by the Common Sense Census in 2021, 84% of teens are using social media, and spending an average of one and a half hours per day on it. Do the benefits of social media outweigh the risks?
Teens are already at a fragile stage of life in having to navigate through the challenges and demands of school and relationships. On top of this, a major concern with teens and social media is cyberbullying, which can cause poor grades, anxiety, and depression in youth. Another issue is how quickly false communication spreads on social media, sometimes leading to inaccurate, embarrassing, and/or fatal situations. Teens may not realize the consequences of posting too much information on the internet. The information posted online is there forever, consequently, leading to safety concerns and affecting their chances of getting a job. Aside from the risks, there is a major lifesaving benefit to social media. It gives us the ability to quickly disseminate crisis information and coordinate response efforts with first responders and communities. Additionally, social media provides endless opportunities for teachers to bring creativity and engagement to their instruction.
It is important to realize that social media is not going away, therefore, parents and educators fall responsible for teaching teens how to use it safely and productively. A good place to start is by establishing a set of rules for the appropriate use of social media. Parents should monitor their teen’s online activity for any signs of cyberbullying. An excellent platform that will help make the process easier is the Social Media Test Drive website. This educational simulated experience allows youth to practice social media safely. A series of modules guides and prepares youth for digital citizenship topics such as cyberbullying and account privacy settings. Another opportunity in your school and community is through PROSPER’s Strengthening Families Program: for Parents and Youth 10-14 (SFP 10-14). This evidence-based prevention program builds confidence and resiliency in youth ages 10-14 to help them communicate effectively with family and friends. Youth learn how to handle negative peer pressure, deal with stressful situations, and reach out to others when they need help, which are all valuable tools for navigating in a social media-driven society. Parents and caregivers that attend this program will practice ways to help foster positive youth development and strengthen family communication. To learn more about the SFP 10-14, please contact PROSPER.
The Common Sense Census Media: Use by Tweens and Teens. (2021). Common Sense, Inc. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/research/the-common-sense-census-media-use-by-tweens-and-teens-2021.
Perkins, D. (2022). Bullying: What Parents Can Do about It. Penn State Extension. https://extension.psu.edu/bullying-what-parents-can-do-about-it.
Social Media and School Crises: Brief Facts and Tips (2016). National Association of School Psychologists. Bethesda, MD.
Social Media Test Drive (2022). Cornell Research Foundation Inc. & Cornell University. https://socialmediatestdrive.org/.