Some young people report benefits of social media use, such as feeling more connected. However, it can have risks as well, such as negative impacts on mental health.

Social media plays a large role in the lives of youths today.

Around 95% of young people between the ages of 13–17 use at least one social media platform. More than one-third of those report using social media nearly constantly.

The most common social media platforms these young people use are TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat.

This article discusses the benefits and risks of social media use. It also gives tips for how to manage the risks and find balance.

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There are many potential benefits of social media use in youths. One of the main benefits is that it can provide a positive connection and community with others who share abilities, identities, and interests.

Teenagers have reported that social media also allows them to have a support network and deeper connections when they need them. They also state the following benefits of social media use:

  • 71% state it gives them a place to show their creative side
  • 67% say it makes them feel as though they have people to support them during tough times
  • 8 in 10 teens state that social media makes them feel more connected to what is going on in their friend’s lives

Social media can also provide access to important information they may be looking for.

It has been shown that social media can provide support that is especially important to young people who are often marginalized, including racial, ethnic, sexual, and gender minorities. Research also suggests that using social media may help provide digitally-based mental health interventions that promote help-seeking behavior and initiate care for mental health.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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Evidence has shown various reasons for concern about the use of social media by young people. The use of social media can have potential negative impacts.

One 2019 cohort study found that young people between the ages of 12 and 15 who spend more than 3 hours a day using social media are twice as likely to experience issues with their mental health, including symptoms of anxiety and depression. It may also lead to them internalizing issues.

Other risks of using social media may include:

  • exposure to inappropriate or harmful content, such as sex, violence, and drugs
  • exposure to dangerous people
  • cyber bullying
  • oversharing personal information
  • exposure to excessive advertisement
  • privacy concerns, including data collection of teenagers
  • being hacked or identity theft
  • inference with activities, school, or sleep

Social media has also been linked to poor body image, low self-esteem, and higher depressive symptoms, especially in young females.

Parents and caregivers stated they were particularly concerned about social media use and the following issues:

  • 53% stated concerns about anxiety and depression
  • 54% stated concerns about lower self-esteem
  • 54% stated concerns about bullying or harassment by others
  • 59% stated concerns about pressure to act a certain way
  • 74% stated concerns about exposure to inappropriate content

While policymakers and technology companies have much work to do in order to manage the risks of social media use among young people, there are also steps parents and caregivers can take.

Ways parents and caregivers can help reduce the risks and find balance when young people are using social media include:

  • Creating a family media plan: Agreeing upon expectations can help to establish healthy technology boundaries within the home.
  • Creating tech-free zones and encouraging in-person relationships: This can include restricting the use of screens like phones and tablets 1 hour before bed and keeping times like family meals device-free.
  • Modeling responsible social media behavior: This can include parents and caregivers limiting their own social media use and being mindful of their online habits.
  • Teaching young people early responsibility online: Discuss the benefits and risks of social media with young people and encourage them to respect privacy and protect personal information in age-appropriate ways.

Young people can also help themselves to reduce the risks of social media use:

  • Seek help: If they or someone they know is negatively affected by social media, they should reach out to a trusted adult. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Center of Excellence on Social Media and Youth Mental Health can also provide guidance.
  • Create guidelines for balance: Help balance online and offline activities by setting limits before bed and during in-person occasions.
  • Be cautious about what is shared: Be selective about what is posted and who it is shared with.
  • Protect others and themselves: If a young person witnesses harassment or cyberbullying, they should tell a trusted adult about it. They can also visit for more information on how to report instances of cyberbullying.

The following are some questions people frequently ask about teenagers and social media.

What percentage of under-18s use social media?

Around 95% of young people between the ages of 13–17 use at least one social media platform.

How many teens use TikTok?

Around 67% of teenagers report using TikTok. 16% of them state they use it almost constantly.

There are both benefits and risks to young people using social media. The benefits include a sense of support, self-expression, and creativity.

Risks of social media use include higher rates of anxiety and depression, cyberbullying, and exposure to inappropriate content.

Parents and caregivers can work with teenagers to manage the risks of social media use and find the balance between life online and life in person.