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How Does Social Media Affect Adolescent Development?

The rampant use of social media has negatively impacted adolescents’ social interactions, mental health, and privacy, as well as positive impacts such as income generation and health awareness. Social media is considered the most recent form of media with many channels, features and facilities. Such facilities include texting, communicating, and sharing images, audio, and videos. According to Beyens et al. (2020) communication is now more accessible since the world has been transformed into a global village. The ease of communication has increased its popularity daily, especially among the youth, the most significant users of the various social media platforms. This social media craze has raised a host of questions as to its impact on the development of adolescents. Numerous studies have been undertaken examining how social media affects the psychological, mental and physical wellbeing of teens. Focus has primarily been placed in understanding excessive use of social media, which has been demonstrated to cause poor mental health outcomes.

Social media impacts a youth born and raised in an era where traditional forms of broadcasting such as television are not the most preferred. According to a study released by Common Sense media, social media usage among teens and tweens increased by 17% between 2019 and 2021 (Moyer, 2022). News research conducted by the BBC in 2013 revealed that 67% of Facebook users comprised the youth. For Snapchat and Instagram, most of the users are under 25 years and account for 73%, while the users above 65 years account for only 3%. For the OECD countries, 90% of the social media users are between 16-24 years (Ortiz-Ospina, 2019). Further studies have shown that social media has various impacts on the lifestyle, social lives, and awareness of the youth on education, and politics, among other developmental areas. The consequences can be viewed in two dimensions; they can either be favorable or detrimental to the user.

Engagement in social media activity has been seen to impact adolescents’ communication and social skills. The youths tend to substitute physical interactions with communication via social media platforms. They can make new friends easily on social media; the same cannot be said about their lives outside social media, where they tend to be more reserved and poor at social interactions (O’Keeffe and Pearson, 2011). Face-to-face talks help people to understand the nonverbal aspects of communication. The problem with social media is that one cannot express emotions through texts, which may lead to miscommunication. The youths who use social media excessively encounter difficulties in their face-to-face conversations as they cannot express themselves adequately. Further, cyberbullying has become an international public health concern since the inception of social media. Cyberbullying may involve sending hurtful messages, embarrassing remarks about someone, and posting humiliating pictures. Due to the indirect communication afforded by social media, the users tend to be out of touch with the emotions of others and can end up being cruel. Dr. Steiner-Adair states that the girls are at more risk because they are socialized to compare themselves with other girls.

The studies conducted in the past have created a link between cyberbullying and effective disorders such as depression, especially among adolescents (USA Today, 2014). Due to the urge to compare themselves with peers, adolescents have experienced detrimental effects, especially those with low self-esteem. Other users may target adolescents with low self-esteem based on their physical attributes. In recent years, news in the media has demonstrated a connection between cyberbullying and adolescent deaths. This is because the negative remarks can be emotionally draining, affect how adolescents view themselves even in the future, and in extreme cases, trigger suicide.

The right to privacy is increasingly becoming compromised due to the advent of social media. This is because of the digital footprint left when one visits the internet. Adolescents also tend to share too much information about their private lives, which may violate their privacy. A digital footprint is one of the biggest threats to the youths and their future reputations. The evidence left behind can be accessed in the future and used against them to sabotage their career development. Despite the risks mentioned above to the development of adolescents, some benefits come with social media. Adolescents can access health information online and address their health concerns anonymously. Reliable health information is accessible to the youth in areas of concern, such as sexually transmitted infections and dealing with depression (O’Keeffe & Pearson, 2011). Generally, the youths are better placed to address their health concerns via the internet without fear of embarrassment.

Social media has revolutionized the traditional job market and introduced a space for adolescents to earn a living doing what they enjoy. It has introduced a creative turn and brings to the forefront certain overlooked aspects of the various social media platforms. The youths can express themselves and showcase their creativity on social media platforms such as Tiktok and Instagram. They have an opportunity to become influencers and advertise various products for companies that are now utilizing the digital space as the new frontier for marketing. It is important to note that social media cannot be entirely dismissed. That would not be a holistic view, as we would focus only on social media’s negative side. The above discussion raises an important question on how social media can be effectively managed to leverage the positives while at the same time working towards the elimination of the negatives.


Beyens, I., Pouwels, J. L., van Driel, I. I., Keijsers, L., & Valkenburg, P. M. (2020). The efect of social media on well‑being difers from adolescent to adolescent. Scientific Reports .

Moyer, M. W. (2022, March 24). The New York Times. Retrieved July 17, 2022, from Kids as Young as 8 Are Using Social Media More Than Ever, Study Finds:,Kids%20as%20Young%20as%208%20Are%20Using%20Social%20Media%20More,in%20the%20four%20years%20prior.

O’Keeffe, G. S., & Pearson, K. C. (2011). Clinical Report—The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families. American Academy of Paediatrics .

Ortiz-Ospina, E. (2019, September 18). Our World Data. Retrieved July 17, 2022, from The rise of social media:

USA Today. (2014, April 4). USA Today. Retrieved July 17, 2022, from Two girls arrested on bullying charges after suicide.:


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