Social Media And The Impact It Has On Children And Youth


Popular culture can be referred to as ‘the products and forms of expression and identity that are frequently encountered or widely accepted, commonly liked or approved, and characteristic of a distinct society at a point in time’ (Sternheimer, 2018). In other words it is a way of life of a particular society or generation at given time. Examples of popular culture includes cyber culture, leisure, entertainment, print, popular music, television, fads and advertising. However, there is no universal definition of popular culture and it depends on different contexts. Today, popular culture revolves around a litany of issues including social media use among youths. As a result of advancement technology, children and young people now has access to mobile devices and fast internet that facilitate access to social networking platforms like Telegram, Facebook, WeChat, Twitter, You Tube, WhatsApp, Instagram, and many others (Good and Mishna, 2019). Studies show that these social media platforms are both useful and addictive not only to children but also to all ages. Social media platforms like YouTube has changed the lives of some children and youths both positively and negatively. It is thus necessary to inquire into the impression of social media on young people.


A Review

Undiyaundeye (2014) acknowledges that the internet presents opportunities cognitive and social development but warns that it is also a risk to the growth and development of children and adolescents. She suggests that social media offers today’s children and youths with the tools of entertainment and communication that are efficient and instantaneous. In particular the author is concerned that social media exposes children and young people to risks such as cyber bullying and online harassment, sexting, defective social relationship, Facebook depression and distorted senescence of reality. Accordingly, she argues that these risks lead to negative psychological outcomes that can drive young people into anxiety, depression or even tragic suicides. Similarly, Genner (2017) decries the risks posed by social media in parenting especially when it serves as secret co-educators that may encourage values that parents do not approve of. She argues that social media is responsible for some of the risks to the growth and development of children and youth because they are exposed to pornography, violence, sexuality, biased beauty standards, drug abuse, political extremism and among others.

Further, Genner cites gaming disorder, diminished concentration capacity, online harassment and digital privacy invasions as some of the risks faced by young people in the age of social media. It follows that the two authors agree on the psychological aftermath of social media use in children and young people. Interestingly, Genner argues that although exposure of adolescents to sexual media content may inculcate sexual violence and sexual inadequacy adolescents are largely affected by their parents’ vantage point on sexuality. Another study indicates that media violence has far-reaching consequences on the behaviour of children especially with regard to aggression and prosocial behaviour (Kirsh, 2010). This study found that social media affects youth development particularly when they are exposed to violent mass media such as playing of aggressive electronic games. The author concludes that habitual exposure of young people to violent scenes increases the likelihood of aggressive behaviour and personality.

Valkenburg and Piotrowski (2017) uses the concept of affordance to justify the allure of social media and its effects. They argue that while teens are concerned about informational privacy they will still update the world daily or regularly about the inner details of their lives; because of a concept called privacy paradox. In essence teens will feel they are in control of their privacy when decide what to post the time to post and who views it. Additionally, the study used the computer-mediated communication (CMC) theories to explain the socio-emotional and cognitive impacts of social media on teenagers. In this regard, they posit that social effects entails lack of self-concept clarity, lack of self-confidence, conceited behaviour, self-adulation, sexual self-exploration and cyberbullying. For instance, social media platforms like Facebook have a like button that tell how many people are impressed with a post or a picture and when some teens fail to achieve recognition they may suffer a blow to their self-esteem. Nicholas Carr’s study supports the above sentiments by advancing the argument that social media has caused shallow thinking and digital dementia in today’s young people (Carr. 2011). He argues that social media has interfered with the capacity for concentration and contemplation.

According to Frith (2017) at least a third of United Kingdom (UK) 15 year use the internet for more than six hours based on the European scale of a typical weekend day. In 2015, it was further recorded that almost all teenager in the above age bracket used the internet before and after they attended school (Frith, 2017). These statistics indicate a growing trend of young people being extensively engaged in social media sites like Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook. Against these findings, Frith analyses existing research on the online risks and harm posed by the prevalence of social media use among young people. She argues that teenage consumption of social media is high and unhealthy considering that time would be assigned to other useful and developmental activities. She further states that young people sometimes share too much information online and that social media may negatively influence body image especially in light of body shaming and cyber bullying.

Unlike other the studies above, this one goes over and above to give the various responses from young people and their parents to online risk. She argues that some parents have taken steps to restrict and monitor how their children use social media while the young paper use inbuilt tools to block unwanted people or comments, take a break from the platforms or talk about with their parents teachers or counsellors. Daine et al. (2013) examines the correlation between negative consequences of social media and young people. Hence, the study suggests that young people who are prone to self-condemnation, punishment or harm still utilise social media and other internet platforms to find support and coping strategies. They further claim that internet and social media has created an enabling environment for cyberbullying that drives young people to self-harm and suicided. Indeed, existing research shows that there is an association between social media use and aggressive means of self-punishment. In the end, the study concludes that social media is a two-faced tool that may augur well with the growth and development of young people but it can also be a danger to them either psychologically or socially or both. In this regard, they admit that while social media activities like bullying may lead vulnerable young people to suicide and self-harm, it can also be a useful platform where they can find support and help.

A number of authors have recognized that peer pressure and the inability of young people to effectively regulate their use of social media is the root cause of many problems (O’Keeffe and Clarke Pearson, 2011). For this reason, youths face a number of risk using social media without even their parents realising the magnitude of the problem. A number of people use social media platforms to deliberately convey inaccurate, demeaning or belligerent information against another user on a particular platform. If these information is not filtered by the platform system and it reaches users who are youths, they can become depressed, violent, suicidal and severely isolated. These psychological outcomes do not augur well with the growth and development of young people and is a manifestation of the many social challenges in the world today. Further the research focuses on the sexting aspect of social media use by youths which it considers to be responsible for juvenile-law misdemeanours, school suspensions for the offenders, mental and emotional distress for the young victims. In addition to this, the authors venture into the role of paediatricians in education of families on the complexities of social media. They suggest that paediatricians occupy a strategic position in the lives of youths and they should actively provide awareness on the social and health impacts of social networks use on young people.

Over time, an extensive literature has developed on the effect of social media use on the welfare of young people. For example, research has provided evidence for the correlation between social networks use and anxiety, self-esteem, sleep deprivation and depression in children and youths (Woods and Scott, 2016). It was found that young people who had significant presence on social media had low self-esteem, sleep depression, high levels of depression and anxiety. The above study joins a growing body of research that demonstrates that unregulated use of social media is harmful to the socio-emotional and health of adolescents and young people. In contrast, previous studies indicate that receiving positive and negative feedback on an online platform may lead to either an increase or a decrease in self-esteem (Gonzales and Hancock, 2011). However, Vogel, Rose, Roberts and Eckles (2014) demonstrated that an upsurge in the viewing on a person’s profile could lead to an increase in self-esteem.

Some authors have suggested that Facebook has an impact on the appearance, especially young women who use social media platforms. Fardouly, Diedrichs, Vartanian and Halliwell (2015) experimentally probed the effect of Facebook use on young women compared to controlled website. They found that young women who browsed their Facebook accounts were in a more cynical mood and appearance than participants who spent their time on a controlled social site. This study suggests that Facebook usage tends to negatively affect young women’s perception of their bodies and this was found to be more serious among pre-teenage girls. A more recent study examined the inquired into the connection between mental health of young people and social media use; it found that social sites had a negative influence on the mental health of females more than males (Kelly, Zilanawala, Booker, and Sacker, 2018). Further, the authors found that longer use of social media had serious consequences on adolescents including cyber-bullying, sleep deprivation, lack of self-confidence and poor body image. This is just another study that joins the pool of evidence that supports the negative consequences of an unregulated use of social networking sites among youths.

However, there other studies that have considered both aspects of social media use and concluded that it presents both benefits and risks depending on how it is used or controlled. For instance, O’Keefe and Clarke-Pearson (2011) contend that there are a number of benefits of children and youths using social media. They go further to highlight key benefits like socialisation and communication, access to health information, and enhanced learning opportunities. In particular, the authors expound that proper use of social media encourages creativity, presents a prospect for educators to use YouTube and blogs and teaching tools and facilitates opportunity for community engagement for charity and volunteer events. In the same vein Emily Frith’s study acknowledges the positive impacts of social media although she majorly focuses on the negative impacts.

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The upshot of the above literature is that social media use affects children and youths both positively and negatively. Through the use of social networking sites, young people like Greta Thurnberg have been heard on the international stage and her cause for climate change invigorated. Some schools have adopted technological approach to learning, social networking between young people has improved and creativity enhanced. Be that as it may, the better part of literature show demonstrate that social media is affecting youths socially, emotionally and mentally. Therefore, there is need to address the regulation of children and youth engagement in social networking sites to minimise psychological and social impacts. Unfortunately, there is a knowledge gap in the strategies to counter the adverse consequences of youth engagement in social networking sites in the 21st century. Further, the better part of literature reviewed above cautions that further research may be needed to find concrete correlations between children and youth engagement in social networking sites and the attendant effects. As a result there is need for further research that specifically investigates the areas of social, emotional and health impacts.


  • Daine, K., Hawton, K., Singaravelu, V., Stewart, A., Simkin, S., & Montgomery, P. (2013). The power of the web: a systematic review of studies of the influence of the internet on self-harm and suicide in young people. PloS one, 8(10).
  • Fardouly, J., Diedrichs, P. C., Vartanian, L. R., & Halliwell, E. (2015). Social comparisons on social media: The impact of Facebook on young women's body image concerns and mood. Body image, 13, 38-45.
  • Fernández, A. (2011). Clinical Report: The impact of social media on children, adolescents and families. Archives of Pediatrics of Uruguay , 82 (1), 31-32.
  • Frith, E. (2017). Social media and children's mental health: a review of the evidence.
  • Genner, S., & Süss, D. (2017). Socialization as media effect. The international encyclopedia of media effects, 1-15.
  • Gonzales, A. T., & Hancock, J. T. (2011). Mirror, mirror on my Facebook wall:
  • Kelly, Y., Zilanawala, A., Booker, C., & Sacker, A. (2018). Social media use and adolescent mental health: Findings from the UK Millennium Cohort Study. EClinicalMedicine, 6, 59-68.
  • Kirsh, S. J. (2010).Mediaandyouth:Adevelopmentalperspective. Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell
  • O'Keeffe, G. S., & Clarke-Pearson, K. (2011). The impact of social media on children, adolescents, and families. Pediatrics, 127(4), 800-804.
  • Social media, and self -esteem. Psychology Of Popular Media Culture, 3(4), 206-222.
  • Social Networking, 14 (1 -2), 79-83.

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