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Impact Of Social Media On Your Child Mental Health

by | Published: | Updated: 11/12/2019


Is Social Media Hurting Your Child Mental Health?

Social media  and how it translates to children, adolescents and their parents as it pertains to family living. The Internet provides benefits in the areas of cognitive and social development and present risks as well as opportunities for adolescents  growth and development. Using social media web sites is among the most common activity of today’s children and adolescents. Any web site that allows social interaction is considered a social media site. The Internet also provides benefits in the area of intellectual, emotional development and also present risks as well as to teenagers and children’s development in functional and societal challenges.

What is Social Media (SM)?

  • Any web site that allows any type of social interaction.
  • Helps members build upon existing and create a new social network based on common interests, etc.
  • Allows users to create some type of representation of themselves, which is usually called a profile, and to have a social connection of friend other users.


Why do children use social media?

  • Facebook and other sites are a means for children to express themselves and connect to others.
  • A way to widen their social networking, allows them to accomplish self-directed learning and allows them to seek independence.
  • Allows the extension of existing relationships.
  • Exploration of unique interest areas.

The Internet can be a positive influence on children if parents and other adults get involved when children gain access. But it can be hard to pick the good from the bad when it comes to media. There are many negative messages about media and how viewing and interacting with it might harm the child. Children can also benefit from media depending on the child’s age, kind and quality of the media in use. Adolescence is a period of transition between childhood and adulthood whereby identity formation, peer relationships, sexuality and self-worth are exploited. Today, for adolescents, the internet is acting as a new social environment where their issues are being explored. A transformation is being noted in how they communicate, establish and maintain relationships and find social support.

Around the world, more than eighty percent of our youths are spending a large amount of time on the internet. For the simple reason that the internet was introduced at a very young age into their lives, the new generation of children and adolescents became the first groups to use the internet on a large scale and among the first to begin experiencing problems associated with excessive internet use. Engaging in various forms of social media is a routine activity that has shown to benefit children and adolescents by enhancing communication, social connection and even technical skills. The Internet is a research site for testing theories of technology diffusion and media effects capable of integrating modes of communication and terms of content. Social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram offer multiple daily opportunities for connecting with friends, classmates and people with a shared interest. Records have shown during the last five years, the number of preadolescents and adolescents using such sites has increased dramatically.


Advantages of Social Media

  • Social interaction and engagement
  • Self-directed learning and exploration of interests
  • Educational and technical development

Social media sites allow teens to accomplish certain tasks that are considered important to them such as staying connected with friends and family, making new friends, sharing pictures and exchanging ideas. On the other hand, social media participation also can offer adolescents deeper benefits that extend into their view of self, community and the world. This becomes more beneficial if adults get involved with children and guide in the use of media through a visit to quality websites by engaging the use of educational software and view of TV shows that offer extra learning opportunities. When these adults watch TV and movies together with kids, discussing plot, how children feel about the happenings in the movie and compare with the real-life consequences of wrong and illegal actions create a balance in the child’s development into society.

  • Literacy skills – For example learning letters of alphabets through programmes such as playschool or educational computer games or Sesame Street.
  • Numeracy skills: Learning to count through play school programmes.
  • Social Skills: Learning operations of TV programmes and using computer games and websites like ABC for kids that show cooperative and helping behaviours.
  • Intellectual benefits like developing problem-solving and critical thinking as well as paying more attention to developing morals by comparing family values with those found in fiction and documentary content
  • Creative benefits – developing skills in imagination, art and modelling, music and media through using software to create a picture or being inspired to make something by a TV show.


  • Social skills through connecting with others on social networking sites by so doing, teenagers can develop their skills.
  • Values through observing good role models in the media
  • Political and social awareness by watching the news, current affairs and documentaries.
  • Children’s motives: - Children use media for entertainment and relaxation purposes that are to relieve boredom, to play games or for social interaction and build identity.
  • Adolescents motive:- They also use it for social interaction, social identity, peer interactions, status boost and symbol, communication like e-mail or chat, facebook, twitter,instagram,tik-tok.  As they mature they begin to use the internet for global contact towards career, business networking and the likes.
  • Gender Differences: - The girls have different motives for internet use which are:
  • Boys - for entertainment, more interested in video games, computer games and opportunities for online games, downloads, acquire news/information from peers.
  • Girls – To seek information for homework social interaction, keep in touch with friends by chatting, break new grounds in career and knowledge enrichment, book etc. 
  • Reading, writing and critical thinking skills through using blogs, chat rooms and becoming involved in message boards such as movie and news sites.


Disadvantages of Social Media

  • Difficulty maintaining privacy
  • Cyber-bullying
  • Vulnerability to strangers
  • Finding support for negative habits
  • Time management and potential addiction

Using social media becomes a risk to adolescents more often than adults realize. These risks fall into the following categories; peer to peer, inappropriate content, lack of understanding of online – privacy issues and outside influence of third-party advertising groups


  • Cyber-bullying and online harassment:  This is a process of using digital media to communicate false, embarrassing or hostile information about another person. It is the most common online risk for all teens and is a peer-to-peer risk. Online harassment is often used interchangeably with the term “cyber-bullying”. Cyber-bullying is quite common and can cause profound psychological outcomes including depression, anxiety, severe isolation and tragically suicide.


  • Sexting:  It is a sending, recording or forwarding sexually explicit messages, photographs or images via cell phones, computer or other digital devices. Most times, these images are distributed through cell phones or the internet. A recent survey by the American Academy of Pediatrics revealed that 20% of teens have sent or posted nude or seminude photographs or video of themselves. Some teens who have engaged in sexting have been threatened or charged with felony child pornography charges even though some states in Nigeria have started

characterizing such behaviours as juvenile-law misdemeanours and conditional consequences including school suspension for perpetrators and emotional distress with accompanying mental health conditions for victims in the USA and Europe. In many circumstances, however, the sexting incident is not shared beyond a small peer group or a couple.


  • Facebook Depression:  Researches on excessive chatting on facebook accessed have proposed a new phenomenon called “Facebook depression” defined as depression that develops when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites such as facebook and then begin to exhibit classic symptoms of depression. Acceptance by and contact with peers is an important element of adolescents life. The intensity of the online world is thought to be a factor that may trigger depression in some adolescents. As with offline depression, preadolescents and adolescents who suffer from Facebook depression are at risk for social isolation and sometimes turn to risky internet sites and blogs for “help” that may promote substance abuse, unsafe sexual practices or oppressive or self-destructive behaviours.


  • Defective social relationship:  Spending countless hours on the internet, children spend very limited time with family and actual friends. This weakens the family bond and limits interaction with actual people. These children miss out on real-life interaction with different relatives which results in distorted social skills and limited real-life social network leading to social isolation. Adolescents who do not have close friendships consistently have lower levels of self-esteem and psychological symptoms of maladjustment. When people have more social contact, they are happier and healthier both physically and mentally.


  • Distorted Senescence of reality:  A nationwide poll showed that half of the teens, ages 13 – 18 often communicate through the internet with someone they have not met in person. One third have talked about potentially meeting face to face.



A prime concern of parents is that the internet affects the social skills of children. There are two ways of looking at this; the internet critics would say that children tend to spend less time in social activities or communicating with family and friends. On the other hand, the internet enables them to make new friends who are situated in distant places.  It is also important for parents to be aware of the behavioural ads because they are common on social media sites and operates by gathering information on the person using a site. Precaution should be used to educate children and adolescents about the online world and how to manage and avoid its hazards. Many social media sites display multiple advertisements such as banner ads, behaviour ads that target people on the basis of their web-browsing behaviour and demographic-based ads that target people on the basis of a specific factor such as age, gender, education, marital status that influence not only the buying tendencies of preadolescents and adolescents but also their views of what is normal.


Addressing social media use- recommendation

  • Be transparent with your child
  • Have a brief, repeated conversions wit6h your children.
  • Encourage face to face interaction.
  • Age recommendations
  • Inform yourself
  • Learn about social media
  • Setup your own profile
  • Find your child
  • Regularly monitor your child social media use
  • Have a daily short conversation
  • Talk about privacy
  • Consider the location of the family computer
  • Learn more from the following resources

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