Teens and Social Media

How and why they use it? How does it impact them?

By: Dylan Hendrickson

Whats All The Hype About?

Over the past decade or so, various social media and networking sites have taken a strong hold on the teenagers of both recent and present generations, whom the members are appropriately referred to as "Digital Natives". With today's teens having a natural familiarity of technology and rates of usage being higher than ever, social media use is greatly changing interpersonal communication and social interaction in our society. This rapid transition to technology undoubtably comes with risks to teens.

"The proportion of teens with Internet access has increased from 87% in 2004 to 95% in 2012, and the proportion of teens engaging in social media usage has increased from 55% in 2006 to 83% in 2012". - Pew Research Center

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Teens Use Social Media for 3 Main Reasons:


Teens use social media to keep in touch with friends and family when face-to-face interaction is not possible

The development of mobile phones/devices with internet access has allowed social media to be incorporated into a teens everyday life. Because of this convenience, teens can tweet in class, Instagram pictures with friends during lunch, snapchat with friends on the way home, etc. Throughout a typical day, your average social media using teen will constantly be checking Facebook, Twitter, and whatever else they use to stay connected and current with their friends and the world.

Ease of access allows teens to spend excessive time on social media sites and increase possibility of developing bad online habits

A common habit that is subconsciously developed by most teens, is having a different behavior online than offline.

Fake Internet Persona

Teens seem to take up boosted persona when interacting online versus offline. This is because when texting or direct messaging someone, its impossible to read their body language, tone of voice or emotional responses as would be necessary in a face-to-face conversation. In turn, along with having a desired amount of time to create a response, this makes way for a fake persona.

  • If persona is too different, it could damage already established interpersonal relationships.

2) gain acceptance

Social media has become an overly influential part of teenage social life and is often seen as a measure of popularity

Teens look to gain acceptance on social media sites by interacting in online groups and following popular trends.

  • ex: Selfie Sunday, Hashtags, tagging, etc.

Social Media gives teens gain a sense of "social compensation" from receiving a high number of likes, comments or retweets on a post.

False sense of social compensation

Social media has become so engrained in the lives of teens that it can make a significant impact on self-image. The feeling teens get when they are portrayed as socially significant on a social media site is a false sense of social compensation because it is not actually worth anything.

It is unhealthy and could have negative psychological impacts for teens to gauge their perceptions of themselves, or self-worth, by how many friends you have on Facebook or how many followers and likes you get on Instagram.

3) Social exploration

For introverted teens, social media and networking sites are seen as an outlet environment that doesn't provoke social anxiety and is less stressful than offline social situations, such as high school

Introverted teens that lack certain social skills take advantage of interacting anonymously online in hopes of improving oneself and breaking their social barriers.

They to this by:

  • Communicating in anonymous chatrooms
  • Creating social media profiles based on different personalities
  • Try to build anonymous relationships based of experimental personalities, otherwise known as "catfishing"

"Lonely adolescents are more likely to experiment with their identities online by leveraging the relative anonymity of the Internet to learn how to interact with people" - Hyunjin Seo


This form of social exploration is commonly seen as negative or immoral, but research shows that it can have positive psychological impacts on teens.

However, as this practice is also based around seeking false compensations and relationships, the gained experiences will be hard to translate into offline use.

  • Because introverted teens have a greater need for social compensations than those just trying to gain a higher level of social acceptance, even though false, can still be beneficial for their growth.

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Excessive use of social media and networking sites will eventually cause teens to fall into a comfort zone while interacting in cyberspace.

This comfort zone is not ideal because it will, in turn, cause improper and unsafe use. Most often teens are either unaware of the risks or simply choose to disregard them.

RISKS associated with social media use:

Privacy Concerns

Teens often overindulge in the word "privacy" when it comes to internet use.

  • Contradicting popular belief of teens, social media content is NOT private; No matter how many privacy settings are applied.
  • IT staff, hackers and data collectors can gain access to any account along with the "private" information the user has provided.
  • Posting information, such as the examples in the below graph, could lead to predators, stalkers, and identity thieves in the worst case.
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Internet adiction

Teens are at risk of addiction to various aspects of online social interaction such as:

  • Entertainment
  • Freedom to behave inappropriately
  • Virtual communities
  • Becoming emotionally attached to online friends and other online activities
  • Keeping a blog up-to-date

Internet addiction can negatively impact a teen internally and externally

  • Spend majority of time in solitude
  • Damage real life relationships
  • Lie about and conceal internet use
  • Cause psychological problems
  • Poor academic performance
  • Can diminish communication skills


By using social media, teens put themselves at risk of cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying can occur in many different froms:

  • Directly making rude or hurtful remarks to or about another user
  • Posting embarrassing photos of another user
  • Harassment
  • Impersonation

Teens will very rarely report cyberbullying because often times they are both victims and perpetrators.

  • Cyberbullying is so easy to commit from behind the safety of a computer screen

Effects of Cyberbullying can have serious negative impacts

  • Psychological impacts such as loss of self-esteem and anxiety
  • Victims can become socially isolated from peers at school
  • Loss of interest
  • Sadness

Future of social media

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With more digital natives being born every year, I believe that, along with the increased use of technology as a whole, social media use among teens is going to continue growing.

As the use of developing technologies by teens continues to grow, so will their ease of access, convenience, psychological significance and weight of influence.

Social media and other social based technologies will continue to impact and change they way teens communicate, influencing their presence and role I society. Social media holds great importance to the teens of this generation and I don't expect that to change at all.