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What Are the Effects of Social Media on Youth?

Nick is a young writer studying, pondering and giving advice.


The statistics all tell the same story: Social media is gaining in popularity every day.

  • The average time spent on social networks per day: 1.72 hours (in 2015).
  • The average number of hours a teenager spends online per week: 27 (2015).

Social media has become a prominent part of life for many young people today. Most people engage with social media without stopping to think what the effects are on our lives, whether positive or negative. Are we as a society becoming more concerned with Facebook "friends" than we are with the people we interact with face-to-face in our daily lives? What will the longterm effects of today's social media use be?

There are many positive aspects, but there are equally as many dangers that come with the use of sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google +, Tumblr, Instagram, gaming sites, and blogs. In order to make the right choices, we must dig in and research this topic thoroughly.

How Much Time Per Day Do You Spend On Social Media?

What are the positive aspects of engaging in social media?

The positives of social media:


  • Teachers are able to easily collaborate and communicate with students and one another.
  • Students have easy, free access to resources online to help them learn.
  • Grades improve and absenteeism is reduced.
  • 59% of student users report that they use social networking to discuss educational topics and 50% use the sites to talk about school assignments.


  • Voter participation is increased. Facebook users said they are more likely to vote if they see that their online friends did. During the elections of 2010, users who visited Facebook more than once a day were 2.5 times more likely to attend a political rally or meeting and 43% more likely to say they will vote.
  • Social media facilitates political change: Online networks give social movements a quick, cheap method of disseminating information and mobilizing people.

Awareness/Being Informed:

  • 27.8% of Americans get their news online. (28.8% get it from newspapers and 18.8% from radio.)
  • Information spreads faster online than any other media. More than 50% learn about breaking news on social media.
  • Social networking provides academic research to everyone with online access, allowing people access to previously unavailable resources.
  • Social media sites inform and empower individuals to change themselves and their communities.

Social Benefits:

  • Social media allow people to communicate with friends and this increased online communication strengthens those relationships. 52% of online teens say social media have helped their friendships. 88% say being online helps them stay in touch with friends they don't see regularly.
  • People make new friends. 57% online teens report making new friends online.

Job Opportunities:

  • Great for professionals for marketing, connecting, and finding business opportunities.
  • Employers find employees and unemployed find work. 89% of job recruiters have hired via LinkedIn, 26% via Facebook, and 15% via Twitter.
  • Social media sites have created thousands of jobs and new avenues of income.

The Expectation of Fame and the Importance of Being "Liked"

What are the negative aspects of engaging in social media?

The negatives of social media:

A Detriment to Work and/or School:

  • Enables cheating on school assignments.
  • While grades did improve for light users, the grades of students who are heavy users of social media tend to suffer. One study shows that student users have an average GPA of 3.06 while non-users have an average GPA of 3.82.
  • For every 93 minutes over the average 106 minutes spent on Facebook daily, college students’ grades dropped .12 points.
  • Another study showed that students who went online while studying scored 20% lower on tests.
  • Possible negative effects on college admission: 35% of admissions officers scan prospective students' social media and report discovering information that affects their admissions decision.
  • Social networking sites harm employees' productivity. 51% of users aged 25-34 checked social media at work.
  • Using social media can harm employment and prospects. Job recruiters check a prospective employee's social media accounts, and things like profanity, poor spelling or grammar, racism, sexism, poor health, references to alcohol or drugs, and sexual and religious content can all count against you.

Lack of Privacy:

  • People, especially the young, are often too open and public with personal information when online. Most don't read privacy policies and may be unaware that their information may be used by third parties, like advertisers, insurance companies, and the IRS. 21% of teens believe it is safe and harmless to post personal information, including photos.
  • Exposure to corporate and governmental intrusions. The US Justice Department intercepts thousands of pieces of information from email and social networking activity per year.
  • The IRS trains agents to scan social media for information that can help them resolve taxpayer cases.
  • Insurance companies use information gleaned from social media, as well. If you have "liked" a medical-related page or a post about a health condition, that information is sometimes used by insurance companies to determine eligibility and raise rates.
  • Online advertising policies are an invasion of privacy. If you "like" a brand, you’re giving that company access to your personal information.

Users Vulnerable to Crime:

  • Social networking sites allow hate groups to recruit and distribute propaganda online.
  • Unauthorized sharing and copyright infringement threatens intellectual property and causes loss of income.
  • Security attacks such as hacking, identity theft, phishing scams, and viruses are common online. 68% of users share their real birth date, 63% share the name of their high school, 18% share their phone number, 12% share a pet's name: This information might be used in identity theft.
  • Criminals use social media to commit crimes. Robbers know when you're away from your home on vacation and stalkers get information about your whereabouts via social media.
  • Sexual predators find, stalk, and assault victims through social media.
  • Sexting (texting sexual content) can be a big problem. When teens post sexy photos or comments online, it can lead to criminal charges and child pornography. 88% of "private" sexual images posted to social media are stolen and publicly posted on porn sites without the subject's knowledge.
  • Security attacks such as hacking, identity theft, and viruses and exposure to phishing scams are common via social media.

Social Detriments:

  • Cyber-bullying (the use of electronic communication to bully someone, usually by sending intimidating or threatening messages) is commonplace online, causes emotional trauma, and sometimes even leads to suicide. 49.5% of students reported victimization by bullying online and 33.7% admitted to online bullying. A 2012 study found that at least 800,000 minors had been harassed on Facebook. Middle school children who experienced cyberbullying were almost twice as likely to try to kill themselves.
  • According to one report, 15% of adult users said that something that happened online caused a friendship to end. 12% of adult users said something that happened online caused a face-to-face argument, and for 3% of adults it turned into a physical confrontation.
  • Extensive online engagement is correlated with personality and brain disorders like poor social skills, ADHD, narcissistic tendencies, a need for instant gratification, and addictive behaviors and other emotional distress like depression, anxiety, and loneliness.
  • Less time for face-to-face interaction with loved ones. 47% of 18-34-year-old users reported using social media or texting during meals. 10% of people younger than 25 reported checking their phones and social media during sex.
  • Children at higher risk for depression, low self-esteem, and eating disorders and more prone to feeling isolated and disconnected (especially youth with disabilities).


  • Enables the spread of false rumors and unreliable information: 49.1% of users have read false news on social media.
  • Encourages amateur medical advice and self-diagnosis of health problems, which can be dangerous and life-threatening.


  • Studies have shown that sites such as Facebook influence you, via advertisements, to spend more money.
  • Advertisers gain all kinds of personal information about you via your social media, information they use to persuade you to buy their product.

A Waste of Time:

  • When alerted to a new post or tweet, it takes about 20 to 25 minutes for the average user to return to their original task. 30% of the time it takes two hours for the user to return to their original task.

What Is Your Opinion About Social Media?

The Bottom Line: Is Social Media Taking Over?

Paradoxically, social media sites can make us not only more capable but also more inept. We sometimes share too much with too many, and we have to be conscious of that. Overall, we have to be careful and caution when approaching these things.

In this day and age, we are pressured 10 different ways as far as our beliefs and opinions are concerned. Are having our own thoughts or are we so influenced by external phenomenon that we believe everything we see online?

In many cases it is clear that social media has become not only part of people’s lives but the things their lives revolve around. We see people checking smartphones every two minutes, looking for the latest tweet or status update. It’s important yet difficult to retain the attitude that these sites may be useful, but that's all they are—tools, not lifestyles.

Andrew Keen is well-known for his opposition to social networking. He believes that the Internet needs to be more "habitable" for users. He has some bold points that we need to take into consideration.

References and Further Reading

Beres, D. (n.d.): 5 Weird Negative Effects of Social Media on Your Brain. Reader's Digest.

California Adolescent Health Collaborative. (2011, 8). Impact of Social Media on Adolescent Behavioral Health in California

Strickland, J. (n.d.). What are the pros and cons of social networking sites?

Are Social Networking Sites Good for Our Society?


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What are the major health risks of Social media on young people?

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Dear author, can you please explain me how social media has seperated youth from society? We can see the 21st century youths has built their own virtual society because of that they are getting far from real society.

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Great article! Is social media changing or re-wiring our teens’ brains in the Digital Age?

Social media has become an integral part of a teenager’s life. Teens aged between 13 to 18 years old spend 9 hours a day online, and 45 percent of teen users agree that social media is an important part of their lives. These “digital natives” are closely identified with technology and they cannot live without it. Today’s teens are living a hyper-connected life which may lead to online safety issues such as sexting or cyberbullying. These are just some of the risks teenagers are facing while they are online.

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