FFFSocial Media and Teens

No. 100; Updated March 2018

Social media plays a big role in teen culture today. Surveys show that ninety percent of teens ages 13-17 have used social media. Seventy five percent report having at least one active social media profile, and 51% report visiting a social media site at least daily. Two thirds of teens have their own mobile devices with internet capabilities. On average, teens are online almost nine hours a day, not including time for homework.

There are positive aspects of social media, but also potential risks. It is important for parents to help their teens use these sites responsibly.

Potential benefits of social media include:

  • Staying connected to friends
  • Meeting new friends with shared interests
  • Finding community and support for specific activities
  • Sharing art work or music
  • Exploring and expressing themselves

Potential risks of social media include:

  • Exposure to harmful or inappropriate content (e.g., sex, drugs, violence, etc.)
  • Exposure to dangerous people
  • Cyber bullying, a risk factor for depression and suicide
  • Oversharing personal information
  • Exposure to excessive advertisements
  • Privacy concerns including the collection of data about teen users
  • Identity theft or being hacked
  • Interference with sleep, exercise, homework, or family activities

Teenagers need support and education to develop the skills to manage their social media use. There are many ways to help your child learn to use social media sites responsibly. It's important to talk with your child about their social media use and your family rules, including consequences for too much use or inappropriate use and whether you will be monitoring their online activities.

Consider the following suggestions depending on your child's age and maturity:

  • Friending or following your child's social media accounts with an agreement about whether you will or won't post or respond to their posts
  • "No screen" times such as "no screens at the dinner table," "no screens in bedrooms" after a certain time of day, or "no social media use until homework is done"
  • Ensuring that privacy settings are turned on to limit access to personal information
  • Instructing teens not to share full names, addresses, telephone numbers, social security numbers, passwords, and bank or credit card numbers
  • having location enabled services turned "off"
  • Exploring apps which limit internet access to age appropriate sites.

If you feel your teen is spending too much time on social media, is upset by what they see, or becomes involved with risky behaviors, talk to your pediatrician, family doctor, or a trained and qualified mental health professional. They can help you and your child develop safe and appropriate rules regarding social media use.