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Balancing Benefits and Risks of Social Media for Teens – A Guide for Parents

By Frederick Schenk

Many adolescent and teen aged children have one or more profiles and engage in some form of social media contact daily.

Certainly, there are many benefits to having access to this technology. However, the risks of exposure for too many hours along with too little restriction on content expose children and teens to risks which can lead to both physical and mental health long term harm and tragic outcomes, as they do not always make good choices when they post content or are exposed to inappropriate material posted by others to which they have access.

To help them find balance, it’s important to talk with young people about how to better use social media.

Social media can create a positive social interaction for children:

  • staying connected with friends and family.
  • volunteering or becoming involved with nonprofits, or charities.
  • enhance their creativity by sharing ideas, music, and art.
  • engaging more effectively with teachers and fellow students
  • acquiring accurate health information from trusted sites
  • staying up to date with local, state, national and internation current events
  • receiving support when they feel sad or anxious.

What Are the Downsides of Social Media Use?

Unfortunately, the adverse consequences of social media is that it can lure young people into making decisions which may be potentially harmful or and life threatening


Cyberbullying can lead to both physical as well as mental harm and can even have life threatening consequences when people are be teased or harassed online. In fact, cyberbullying is considered the most common online risk for teens, and is linked to depression, loneliness, and even suicide in both the victims and the bullies.

Privacy & Safety

Children should be made aware of maintaining their privacy online. Without intending to share personal information, young people tend to share more online about themselves and their families than they should. Many kids post photos of themselves online or use their real names on their profiles. They also might reveal their birthdates and interests or post their school’s name and their home addresses making them easy targets for online predators.

In fact, many children have reported having been contacted online by people whom they did not know asking them to send inappropriate photos which may later be used as blackmail resulting in both physical and mental anguish and self-harm.

Mental Health

Studies show that spending a lot of time on social media can lead to adverse mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety. It’s not just how much time children spend on social media, but rather how they use it which can cause adverse consequences.

Experts are studying the relationship between social media and mental health conditions. Whether unhealthy social media use leads to mental health problems, or whether people with mental health problems tend to use social media in unhealthy ways continues to be studied and assessed by mental health professionals.

What Can Parents Do?

It is important to be aware of what young people are doing online. Yet spying on their use of digital social media can damage trust parents have built with their children. The key is to stay involved in a way that makes your kids understand that you respect their privacy but want to make sure they’re safe.

Tell your kids that it’s important to:

  • Be nice. Mean behavior is not OK. Make it clear that you expect your kids to treat others with respect, and to never post hurtful or embarrassing messages. And ask them to always tell you about any harassing or bullying messages that others post.
  • Think twice before hitting “enter.” Remind children that what they post can be used against them and may never be removed from the internet.  Sharing photos of themselves which would embarrass parents or grandparents if viewed, should never be posted. The rule of “What Would Grandma Say” goes not only for how close family members would feel if they saw the posts, but also, how would teachers, friends, school admissions officers or future bosses feel if they saw the content.
  • Don’t “friend” strangers. “If you do not know them, don’t friend them.” This is a plain, simple — and safe — rule of thumb. Let them know that kids who follow friends are generally happier than those who follow strangers.

Make a Household Plan for Social Media Use

Lastly, consider setting household rules around social media use. How young people use social media and what they are permitted to see can be more important than how many hours a day they spend on it. Set rules you all can agree on — for example, you might keep computers and devices in public areas in the house and turn them off before bedtime and during meals. Post the rules in a visible area (like on the refrigerator) so that everyone knows about them.

Different children use social media in different ways. Their experiences will differ based on things like their maturity level, mental health, and personality. Keep this in mind as you create your family’s plan and adapt it to your individual kids.

Know how your kids use social media and encourage them to focus on its positive effects. And do not forget: Setting a good example through one’s own virtual behavior can go a long way toward helping your child’s use social media safely.


If you or a loved one has been harmed by social media addiction, we encourage you to learn more about how our social media addiction lawyers can help, or call our law office at 619-304-2862.



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