Children and Social Media

Posted by: Dr. Justin D'Arienzo, Psy.D., ABPP

Children and Social Media

I was recently interviewed by Jacksonville Magazine regarding the impact of social media on children. I have attached information that I found while researching the topic. I hope that you find it interesting and most importantly helpful.


Dr. D’Arienzo

Psychologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics have been studying social media’s impact on children and the findings are similar.  Social networking continues to be on the rise and parents need to help their children learn to navigate it safely. Twenty two percent of teenagers log onto their favorites sites more than 10 times a day, and 75 percent own cell phones.  With increased social media use, children are more susceptible to depression and anxiety as a result of being de-friended, cyberbullying, and exposure to inappropriate content and sexting. Further, Facebook and gaming are big distractions and negatively impact learning. A study found that children and teens that check Facebook at least once per day during a fifteen minute study period showed to achieve lower grades.  

The research also suggests there are some benefits of social media to children. Young adults spending more time on FB are better at showing “virtual empathy” to online friends, social networking helps introverts learn to socialize, and social networking can provide tools for teaching in compelling ways that engage young students. Social media also provides access to information and helps to develop a sense of self.


Regarding social media changing the way children process their own feeling, thoughts, and emotions: It depends on the child. Social media has great benefits to introverted or isolated children. It also gives children greater access than ever before to kids like themselves and with similar interests. Children who are impulsive or have poor boundaries fall prey to posting inappropriate content or being rejected and violated. In my experience, social media has had an amplified negative effect on impulsive and risk taking children but has been more beneficial to children whom would typically be withdrawn and friendless. The anonymity affords them to take a risk and when they connect to others like themselves, they find acceptance, which is very rewarding for them.

Parents are faced with a nearly impossible task in monitoring and limiting how children use social media. Kids today, as in every generation, are more technologically savvy than the former. Therefore, they typically outwit their parents and get around electronic barriers. Thus, maintaining a positive relationship and communication with your child is key. Focus on building their value system and helping them to understand the long term consequences of viewing or posting certain material that is permanent. Again, focus on building a bridge with your child rather than building a wall around them. If you have a solid relationship with them they are more likely to tell you that are being bullied online or to tell you what a friend has posted online. Other helpful hints in protecting children from the dangers of social media are: Get to know their habits regarding social media use, consider contracting with early teens that you as their parent have full access to their computers and accounts, place the computer in a high traffic zone, parents should model appropriate social media behavior themselves by limiting their time online and not updating their own profiles while driving, and use of cell phones while driving should be restricted and enforced by all family members.