Although social media has at times been demonized, there are many positive aspects of adolescents and children using social media. These include opportunities for community engagement, enhancement of creativity, expansion of online/social connections, enhanced learning opportunities, access to important health information, and improving social skills.
Although there are many positive aspects of social media, there are specific pitfalls that are important for young people to avoid:
- Cyberbullying, “deliberately using digital media to communicate false, embarrassing, or hostile information about another person,” commonly occurs in this population, and can predispose adolescents and children to depression, anxiety, isolation, and even suicide.
- Sexting is another danger where young people receive, forward or send sexually explicit material via digital devices. At times, this can cause emotional distress.
- “Facebook depression” is a new phenomenon when adolescents use a large amount of their time on social media sites and subsequently develop depressive symptoms.
- Finally, privacy concerns due to the “digital footprint” and the influence of advertisements on buying are issues that need to be kept in mind for young people involved with social media.
It is important for parents and adolescents to have frank discussions regarding social media in order to avoid “Facebook depression”. Clear guidelines should be set for proper use, and parents should use social media responsibly themselves to model healthy behavior for their children.