What are the pros and cons of social media for teens?
From breaking the bank on clothing as you proudly watch your child grow, to pulling out your hair as you fight with your kids to eat their veggies, any seasoned parent can tell you that nearly everything in the child-rearing life has a good and a bad side to it — including social media.
The plain truth is, nearly everyone uses social media at this point. In fact, 84% of those with access to the internet use social media. Naturally, this includes a huge number of teenagers who flock to social platforms for a variety of reasons. If you have a teenager that wants to get plugged in online, here are a few of the biggest pros and cons to consider as you set up boundaries and discuss what is and isn’t allowed.
Pro: social media allows kids to stay informed and plugged in
While it may be seen as a place for silly cat videos and fake news, social media does still have an information-focused silver lining. It is often used to share educational and informational content that can help kids stay informed and plugged into their communities and interests.
In addition, social media can influence many unexpected areas of life, such as expressing compassion, tips for health, how to build and maintain relationships, and proper communication techniques. It even allows teens to interact with their peers on an equal footing regardless of things like race, creed, and disabilities.
Con: social media lures kids away from physical activities
It’s no secret that social media is a digital activity — exclusively so. As such, it has the potential to encourage teenagers to remain continually online, even when they have the opportunity to do something more constructive.
For instance, hobbies of all shapes and sizes, from reading to pick up soccer, exercising, or even metal detecting are often eschewed in favor of endlessly, even mindlessly perusing social networks. In addition, social media can emotionally separate children from the desire to participate in family activities — and if you think that desire to play Monopoly on Friday night comes naturally, stop lying to yourself.
Pro: social media enables teens to keep up with tech trends
We live in a tech-driven world, and no one knows it better than the current Generation Z group of teens. Also known as “digital natives,” Gen Z has never experienced a life outside of technology, and as such, it’s crucial that they are allowed to maintain their technical acumen in a world that ruthlessly never stops developing. Social media can provide an ideal way for teens to stay up to date on the latest tech trends without the need for classes or formal training.
Con: social media causes stress
Social media can be an emotionally draining activity, and this can often lead to a sense of stress and anxiety, even for younger users. From excessive awareness to exacerbating fear of missing out, cyberbullying, and even the simple exposure to too much blue light on their phones, there are many stressful factors associated with Generation Z’s social media usage.
Pro: social media helps teens communicate quickly
Social media enhances communication in a cutting edge way that allows teenagers to remain plugged in and present in a world that is always moving at breakneck speeds. This ability to communicate in a nearly real-time manner allows them to keep up to date on things like school closings, class updates, and any other time-sensitive communications.
Con: social media is downright addicting
Many teens suffer from SMAD — Social Media Anxiety Disorder. Not only does this involve anxiety (which has already been touched on) but it can also revolve around an intense addiction to one’s smartphone. Parents should be careful not to encourage addictive behavior in their children during these young, formative years of their lives and must work to avoid social media usage turning into social media addiction.
Pro: social media teaches networking
Everything from corporate communication to affiliate marketing on Instagram involves some form of online networking. The modern world revolves around it. Allowing your teenagers to have some sort of online presence can help them hone the necessary skills required to network on social platforms as they get older and begin their careers.
Con: social media is dangerous
Finally, there’s the obvious admonition that can’t be ignored: social media can be dangerous. When polled, over a third of young people claimed they had been victims of online bullying. Over a third. While there are many social benefits involved, it’s important for parents and children alike to always be fully aware of the cyberbullying and cyberstalking dangers involved in life online.
Being an influencer in your child’s social media life
At this point, most parents are being confronted with the reality that their teens desperately want to participate in the online social world. While this is a reasonable desire, though, it should be approached and facilitated in an informed manner. Both parents and teenagers alike should work together to set up clear boundaries and expectations. Children should be carefully informed of the benefits and risks involved as well.
If you’re trying to find a way to walk the line between enabling positive social media usage and clamping down on its abuses, there are many social media tools like Gabbs, SafeToNet, and KidGuard that can allow you to digitally walk by your child’s side as you navigate the social media world together.