The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents of kids and teens place consistent limits on media use. Media includes entertainment (like watching TV and playing video games) and education (like researching a school project). Screen time should not replace time needed for sleeping, eating, being active, studying and interacting with family and friends.
Why are kids drawn to using social media?
Kids are using social media to share experiences, gain approval from others and develop peer relationships. They also use it to develop their own identity, which is normal during adolescence.
Over 65% of teens spend more than four hours on their phone daily. This means that instead of in-person connection, some children and teens are becoming reliant on social media content to connect with others. Kids often feel drawn to using and posting on social media excessively simply because the kids around them are.
How is social media affecting kids?
Social media can be difficult to navigate with kids and teens. Increasingly, kids are relying on social media as primary means of social connection rather than in-person connections.
On social media, kids and teens see a snapshot (and often unrealistic representation) of someone else’s experience. Social posts often lack context, so kids end up projecting their own context onto what they are seeing. Kids may assume that they don’t measure up to their peers or that their experiences aren’t what they should be.
When connecting in person with friends, kids know how their friend is reacting to what they say with verbal communication and body language. If there is a miscommunication, they can talk about it and move on. On social media, kids may not know how their peers truly feel or what they meant by their posts or comments because they are missing verbal communication and body language.
If kids receive a negative comment or message, they can go back and view it on social media indefinitely (unless deleted). Because of this, they may dwell on the negative message with every review — leading kids to feel worse about the post.
Is social media bad for my child’s mental health?
Social media can be an excellent resource for exploring new ideas, staying aware of current events, promoting community with others and keeping in touch with family and friends.
On the other hand, social media can act as a hub for potentially harmful or questionable activities that can lead to peer harassment, increased stress, anxiety, depression, body image concerns and loneliness.
Is social media safe for my child?
There are certainly safety issues associated with social media, such as the risk of bullying; privacy concerns and oversharing; viewing and sharing inappropriate content; and the permanence of social media posts — meaning once something is posted, it can be hard to take back.
Teens might be more inclined to participate in risky behavior online for both physical and emotional reasons. While their bodies and hormonal systems are fully developed, their brains are not.
It’s important for parents to have open communication about safe social media practices with their kids.
If your child expresses thoughts of wanting to harm themselves or others, call 9-1-1 or visit the nearest Emergency Department.
(877) 7CRISIS or (877) 727-4747
Text “HOME” to 741741
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Download, print or share on social media.
American Psychological Association
Promoting healthy technology use for children
Child Mind Institute
Media Guidelines for Kids of All Ages
Family media plan and media time calculator
Dangerous internet challenges
The New York Times
How to use TikTok’s parental controls
Parent resources for YouTube
Safety resources for parents
Parental guide for teens on Instagram
Find a mental health provider
Check your insurance website or the back of your insurance card.
Explore Psychology Today’s “Find a Therapist” tool.
Call CalOptima Behavioral Health (Orange County, CA).