A Pew Research Center reports that 95% of teens use a smartphone and 45% of them say they are online almost constantly. Facebook has become less popular; Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube are growing. As social media use grows, so do concerns about how it affects our children.
About 45% of teens do not think social media has an effect on their lives while 31% say the effect been positive and 24% say it has been negative.
Research published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) groups social media risks into the following categories:
Cyberbullying and Online Harassment
Cyberbullying, also known as online harassment, is deliberately using digital media to communicate false, embarrassing or hostile information about another person. Cyberbullying is not as common as offline harassment, and participation in social networking sites does not put most children at risk of online harassment. On the other hand, cyberbullying is quite common, can occur to any young person online, and can cause profound psychosocial outcomes including depression, anxiety, severe isolation and suicide.
Sexting can be defined as “sending, receiving or forwarding sexually explicit messages, photographs or images via cell phone, computer, or other digital devices.” Many of these images spread rapidly over social media sites and cell phones. A 2012 study found correlations between sexting and sexual behaviors, substance use behaviors, emotional health behaviors and time spent texting. Because sharing and viewing sexually explicit material involving a minor can be considered child pornography, there can be serious legal consequences.
In New Jersey, teens who are caught sending sexually explicit images with their cell phones could face legal problems, such as being mandated to participate in a remedial education or counseling program that must be paid for by the teen’s parent or guardian, or face prosecution under New Jersey child pornography laws. N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-71.1
Researchers have defined “Facebook depression,” as depression that develops when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media and then exhibit symptoms of depression. Teens who suffer from Facebook depression may be socially isolated and may turn to websites that offer “help,” but may in turn promote substance abuse, or unsafe sexual practices.
Sharing too much information online, and posting false information about themselves or others, puts your teen’s privacy at risk.
Influence of Advertising
Ads on social media sites are usually targeted to the user to influence both their buying habits and their perception of typical behavior.