The Positive Effects of Social Media on Kids and Teens
Many parents have been concerned about the effects of social media on teens’ mental health and wellbeing. However, it’s important to recognize that social media can also have positive impacts on kids and teens.
Teens say the platforms they use allow them to feel connected to what’s going on in friends’ lives, provide a place to showcase their creativity and help people find support when facing challenges.
Most teens are not oblivious to the impact social media can have on their well-being. In fact, a recent 2022 Healthline survey found that nearly half of teens who use Instagram and Snapchat say they need to take a break from those sites to feel better.
The landscape has changed in the seven years since the Center last surveyed US teens about their social media use. TikTok has rocketed in popularity while Facebook usage has dropped from a peak of 71% in 2014-15 to 32% today. Instagram and Snapchat have both seen their shares rise. Twitter and Tumblr saw declines.
Most teens think social media has a negative impact on them, with three-in-ten saying they’re overwhelmed by the drama they see on their friends’ feeds. However, most teens also believe that social media has positive impacts — most commonly that it provides a platform to express their creativity and give them support when they’re down.
A majority of teens say they use at least one of these online platforms almost constantly, and 35% of these “almost constantly” users say they spend too much time on their social media. In addition, teens who think they use these platforms too much are more likely than those who think they use them the right amount to say that it would be hard for them to give up these sites and apps altogether.
This is true across the gender line, but it is most pronounced among girls. Some 54% of girls ages 15 to 17 who almost constantly use these online platforms say it would be very hard for them to give them up, while only 46% of boys say the same. These differences also apply to how teen users perceive their social media experiences.
One of the fastest-growing social media platforms is TikTok. The platform offers bite-size video content, including dance videos, lip-syncing challenges, and carefree humor. It has gained popularity worldwide, primarily among Gen Z and Gen Y.
About three-quarters of teens surveyed say they use YouTube daily and almost as many report using TikTok at least once a day. About half of teens use Instagram and Snapchat, while 19% report using Facebook daily.
However, it’s important to note that teen usage of these platforms does vary by demographics. For example, Black and Hispanic teens are more likely to use TikTok and Instagram than their white counterparts. Similarly, a higher share of teens from households with incomes of $30,000 or more per year say they use these platforms “almost constantly” than those from households making less money.
Teens have many good things to say about social media, but the platform can be a challenge. It comes at a time when teens face profound physiological changes that can make them especially vulnerable.
Among those who use at least one of these platforms, 35% say they are on them almost constantly. These heavy platform users are more likely to feel overwhelmed by online drama and to feel like their friends are leaving them out of the loop.
Overall, most of those surveyed say that they find social media helpful for their mental health, and the majority say they think their parents think the same. For those struggling, experts recommend reaching out for help. Seek help at 1-800-273-8255 or at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Many teens use social media because they think it enables them to show creativity, keep in touch with friends, feel supported by their peers during tough times and build confidence. However, teens also report negative experiences on these platforms — especially those related to screen time and the impact of online drama.
YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat have all seen increases in the shares of teens who say they use those apps or sites daily since 2014-15. But Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr have seen declining share of teen users. And one-in-ten teens who say they use at least one of these apps or websites almost constantly say they are on it too much. This is greater among girls than boys. This is consistent with earlier research by the Pew Research Center.