The negative effects of social media on teens and tweens can be obvious for parents and educators, but there are seldom discussions about the positive impact of social media. When teaching students how to build healthy screen time habits, it can be helpful to also understand the advantages of social media.
The SmartSocial.com Team asked 22 experts to share their opinions about the positive impact of social media on students. Learn how social media provides a platform to showcase technological savvy, can be used to empower students, creates an opportunity for an open dialog, and more.
1. Virtual communities can help teens feel supported and connected
Kriya Lendzion, Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor
When I surveyed my 208 students in the fall of 2020 about what was hardest for them about the current moment, the #1 answer was not being able to see their friends in normal ways. There was an obvious correlation between the kids who claimed they were doing better mentally and emotionally, and the ones that were finding ways to connect virtually with their friends through gaming and social media platforms.
Here are some ways teens have used social media for the positive:
- Kids who feel really self-conscious and nervous about being their true selves in their school/home settings or who are struggling with depression or anxiety but don’t know how to talk about it with their families and other friends, can find a particularly strong sense of support from the “safe” anonymity of social media communities.
- Teens use social media to stay rooted in optimism and inspiration by posting something they’re grateful for daily, inspirational quotes or images, and also following hashtags and people that do something similar.
- Following/posting animal videos are huge at helping them lift out of tough moments.
- In the past several months, anything that can be a release and help kids laugh (as long as it’s not unkind) has felt “positive”. This includes dance videos, making & sharing memes and videos (TikTok, IG Reels) that help them laugh at “CovidLife”: how hard it is to be with their families 24/7, learning via Zoom, living in masks, and more.
- I’ve coached some parents to “join vs battle” with their kids re: social media to an extent, and had families make some awesome dance and humor videos with each other on IG/TikTok.
Some of the more socially awkward kids have meaningful connections and feel belonging in ways that they often struggle with in person. I’ve seen their social confidence grow positively from this at times, in ways that they’ve been able to transfer back to in-person relationships.
2. Social media can be used to create a positive digital footprint and search results
Josh Ochs, SmartSocial.com
Since Google results are the new digital resume, it’s important for students to dominate their online presence. Building a positive digital footprint using social media is a great way for students to Shine Online™, show their unique personality, and have ownership over their search results.
Students can use their social media profiles to highlight their school projects, sports, hobbies, volunteer work, or family vacations.
3. Social media can help young adults find acceptance and groups of like-minded people
Kate Diaz, Co-owner & Writer, Swanky Den
Although there is cyberbullying reported almost every day, parents should also recognize that teens can also benefit from using social media. One of the positives of platforms such as Facebook and Instagram is that they provide young adults and teens a sense of acceptance and belonging, especially those who feel marginalized or alone.
These networks can also inspire them to try new things, go for their dreams, and even speak up regarding things that matter to them. Bad personalities are rampant online, but there are also positive role models that can motivate them.
The key here is to guide your children. Make sure that social media does not take over their life. Set limitations, and when they do pick up their mobile phones and browse their social media, remind them to use it for good.
4. Social media increases impact and knowledge of world events
Israel Gaudette, Founder, Link Tracker Pro
Social media can be a vehicle for doing good. Giving every teen a chance of making an impact in the community is very crucial. And with the use of social media, that impact is just one click away. It exposes them to essential issues not only in their community but all over the world as well. And with it, more teens are now empowered to help and support people all over the world even just if it’s miles away from them.
More than ever, teens’ voices are heard often now because of social media. It keeps them informed just like adults. They can freely follow organizations that they believe in. With it, they’ll never feel like an outcast and will always feel that they’re part of something.
5. Teens use social media to be part of the conversation
Sophia Nomicos, Founder, Mas & Pas Limited
In the past, many teenagers have been disinterested in current affairs and the goings-on of the world of ‘grown-ups’. With the rise of social media, everyone is able to share their views, insights, thoughts, and feelings about what’s going on around them. This is also done through more entertaining and engaging forms, like homemade videos, user rants, funny memes, or impactful photographs.
Whether it’s panic-buying due to COVID or the Black Lives Matter movement, social media can help teens to connect with the big issues that surround us today. They can see the impact of world events in a more dynamic way than if they were to say just watch the news. This could encourage them to think about and discuss these issues and perhaps even get involved too.
6. Use social media to connect with family members
Louis Wright, Web Designer & Marketeer
Social media can be utilized to improve conversations between family members especially in their teenage years, as adolescents become increasingly more closed off and secretive in their online activities more and more every year. Teens can use social media to connect with more family members, share photos and videos with them, and keep in touch.
To enjoy the positive side of social media, be selective with who you choose to follow. Engage with high-quality and well-rooted accounts such as verified news, climate pollution solutions, and perhaps even the United Nations accounts that dispense interesting and fun facts every day.
7. Social media is an outlet for creativity
Jeremy Bake, Heart a Fact
Social media outlets provide students with a platform to share their creativity and their ideas with a neutral audience and get an honest response. The response becomes a guide for them to better shape their skills if they are looking to pursue that skill professionally.
For example, a photographer or videographer starts by posting their shots on Instagram, or a writer sharing samples of their poetry and essays on Tumblr. Many youngsters are already making a career out of such ideas. This shows, if used productively, social media can be a powerful tool for students to highlight their passions and get feedback.
8. Social media is used to combat bullying, body shaming, and more
Mark Coster, Owner and Chief Editor, STEM Toy Expert
Parents and educators are already well aware of how kids can develop a negative and distorted self-image through social media. However, more and more positive role models have been popping up. There are successful and widely popular campaigns that combat bullying, body shaming, misogyny, homophobia, racism, cancel culture, as well as many other phenomena that shape and format a teenager’s personal and social identity.
But more than organized campaigns, your child can identify with people – their peers who find a voice and speak out loud, as well as positive celebrities and micro-influencers. Just like in real life, there are negative and positive voices. Since social media thrives on polarization and tends to push users down various rabbit holes, parents and educators have a crucial role to play in helping kids find those positive voices. They should help them realize that the world is not black and white. The key here is to openly discuss both positive and negative aspects of social media themselves, as well as just about any issue they raise.
9. Develop critical thinking by using social media for school projects
Mary Ann Lowry, M.Ed, ADHD Coach
I find the students I work with benefit from direct instruction on using social media to learn more about topics. For example, if they are looking for more information on China, they can do a Facebook search to look for people, who live in China. There will be Facebook groups, such as “Teens from ____ (a specific city).” Part of the learning and building right brain thinking is brainstorming. If we hit a dead end, we keep going until we find an English speaking group. Students can then ask about geography, hobbies, etc.
Connecting with others through social media is far more entertaining than reading an article. When they do read articles, they make more sense after being introduced to concepts by real life people. This also helps to develop critical thinking and to develop self advocacy (asking for help when needed).
10. Social media can motivate students to strive for greatness
Tom DeSpiegelaere, Digital Marketing Expert and Founder of Tom Spicky
Social media can be a catalyst for motivating students to believe they can accomplish great things. Following inspirational pages and personalities, such as Goalcast and Jay Shetty, would help instill positive values and great life lessons. Since media is a powerful tool in shaping one’s values and beliefs, engaging with motivational content can teach students how to express gratitude, show kindness, act with respect, and believe in their own potential.
As students encounter pressures and anxieties in their daily lives, just one video or motivational quote can rekindle their self-confidence and maybe even reveal their true desires in life.
11. Social media helps provide a sense of community
Karen Gross, Author and Educator
In the current context with social isolation and closed schools, students benefit from social media because it provides a way to connect and create community, in the absence of in-person contact. Indeed, adolescents need social engagement; they need to individuate and social media is a means of doing that when schools are closed.
In the absence of mentors and teachers and engagement in and outside of school with peers and coaches, social media becomes an integral form of communication.
We are all aware that social media is not without risks. There can be false information, bullying, and offensive and discriminatory language. But, the point is to enable the tool to be put to its best use now because it is critically needed.
12. Students can meet mentors to help guide their career goals
Ethan Taub, Founder of Goalry.com
Social media allows students to dip their toes into networking – albeit digitally. Commenting on others posts on LinkedIn and responding to Tweets can build rapport and relationships in their area of study.
In-person networking usually isn’t done while in school or university. It usually begins within the first years of a career. Social media now allows people to get their first foot on that career ladder whilst in education; one step ahead of their peers.
13. Social media can provide teens with a voice
Nickia Lowery, Counselor
Adolescent years are a time when children are attempting to master their identities and finding their place in society. Social media has allowed teens to develop a voice of advocacy. The ability to see who is following who and the reactions from posts reinforces a sense of belonging. This can be a very positive influence when exposed to the right outlets, especially for teens who do not have a large group of friends.
14. Social media can help students learn essential job skills
Jonas Sickler, ReputationManagement.com
It can definitely be easy to paint social media as a villain, but there are just as many positive lessons that teens can learn from it.
Social media definitely helps teens learn to take criticism from strangers without being drawn into a digital dog fight. This can be a real challenge for young minds looking to express themselves, and a valuable lesson to learn before getting a job.
Wouldn’t it be nice if what happened on social media stayed on social media? Learning to use social media responsibly will build an essential skill for teens that will stay with them for life. Think twice before you post (or speak), and you’ll avoid embarrassing yourself, and possibly hurting others.
15. Social media can lead to more communication
Lyn Hastings, The Powerline Group
I’ve interviewed multiple moms about this, and despite the negativity that surrounds social media, there were some encouraging stories. One mom said the constant scrolling lead to more communication about current events with her son. Another mom claimed social media allows introverted kids to safely invite friends to “hang” with less fear of rejection than having to pick up the phone.
The most common positive impact of social media was that it allowed kids to stay in touch with past and present friends throughout the changes in their lives: school, job, and team changes, hospital stays, studying abroad, etc.
16. Students can use technology to form study groups
Len Saunders, Author
Social media can sometimes be beneficial to kids and teens when it comes to information. For example, when group chats occur and kids form study groups online to share information and assist one another. This also comes in handy when kids are absent from school because they can get information from friends who were in school that day. If a lot of notes were given that day, a good friend can simply take a picture of the notes and send it over to the friend who was absent.
Most experts will tell you to limit the time spent on technology for a safer environment. As an educator, I have taught parents not to remove technology completely, but to limit it. In some cases, you can make technology an earned activity.
17. Social media provides a platform to showcase technological savvy and creativity
Dimitris Proko, UK Department for Work and Pensions
Teens today live in a revolutionized smartphone era, in which Wi-Fi and social media have become impeccable survival ingredients. Social media is perceived as a formula to “connect” with others, by either sharing their live moments or even making a lifestyle statement. However, with great social interaction, comes great responsibility.
Some of the benefits of social media are:
- Having a platform to showcase technological savvy and creativity
- Increased self-confidence by empowering introverts to express their ideas
- The ability to create lifelong friends
- Strengthening social awareness and empathy
18. Social media offers students a way to stay in touch with friends if they move
Heidi McBain, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
We recently moved back to the States after living overseas for years. Social media has been a wonderful way for our tween to stay in touch with friends who are living all over the world. While we’ve all been meeting new people and establishing friendships in our new hometown, it was so helpful for her to still feel connected to her friends from our old hometown. I actually think this made leaving a little bit easier because she didn’t have to let these friendships go, which might have been the case in years past.
19. Students can leverage social media to promote their civic engagement
Kevin Howley, PhD, DePauw University
Young people should leverage their interest in social media to promote learning, creative expression, and civic engagement. Social media connects young people with a world of ideas and a world of possibilities. Students can make productive use of these tools to conduct research, reach out to experts, and ask questions. These tools also permit young people to express themselves, share their work, and get feedback and encouragement. Social media promotes active citizenship.
20. Younger students can feel empowered by teaching older relatives how to use technology
Adam C. Earnheardt, Ph.D., Youngstown State University
In meetings with senior citizens, I’ve heard great stories about their grandchildren and social media. What I’ve found is that more teens and tweens are connecting with older family members, not just through social media, but by teaching their grandparents how to set up their accounts to stay connected. It’s a wonderful combination of high tech and high touch for both age groups. Teens/tweens feel self-worth by teaching new technology to those much older and wiser, while the older group feels better connected not only to their grandchildren but to people they may not have communicated with in decades.
21. Students can utilize social media to spread social awareness and kindness
Jason Perkins, San Diego SEO and Online Marketing Inc.
Other than the negative side effects of social media on teenagers, there are also good things to look forward to that will shape your kids into entrepreneurs. Here are some of the positive effects of social media on tweens:
- It allows them to spread social awareness and kindness. One of the reasons why teenagers are on social media is so they can search for new information on people, explore new ideas, express themselves the way they want to, and connect with others all over the world. Social media can be a great platform for them to start campaigning for their rights and the rights of other people.
- Teens also have the opportunity to learn things through social media platforms. Additionally, they can get feedback from the work that they produce, like school projects, art projects, etc. It gives them a safe space to get unsolicited advice from other people, which they can use to eventually better their skills.
- Social media helps students enhance their confidence and creativity. By definition, social media refers to the online services that allow users to connect with one another and share content. These platforms encourage students to exercise their creative skills in terms of engaging with their friends and their general audience. Given that they take up the majority of the users on social media platforms, teenagers create the future of social media.
22. Students can learn new things from social media
Michael Banks, Banks Test Prep
Teens can have the same benefits as adults who use social media in a moderate manner to network and learn new things. One recent example is while looking at an SAT reading passage related to the Louvre, a student showed me some pictures on Instagram from when they had visited France with their family. Social media was positively impacting their interest.
Students have been told time and time again that social media can have a negative impact on their lives, but they rarely hear about how social media can help them excel. From creating a more dynamic college resume to building communication skills, social media creates plenty of positive opportunities for students.
Instead of focusing solely on the negative impact social media can have, try to highlight the ways your children can use social media for good. Whether your children showcase their charitable activities, help seniors learn technology, or connect with family, you can help them find new ways to shine online. When you follow the steps above and show your children how social media can be used positively, they are less likely to use social media in a negative way.