Social Media & Its Impact on Children – Part I

Since its official beginning in 1997 with the creation of the first social media platform, Six Degrees, the impact social media has had on people, young and old, has become a highly charged debate.

In this three-part series, we will look closely at the role social media plays in the lives of young people, school-aged kids. We will identify the positives and negatives of social media.

Elementary-aged students are very young, innocent and immature so the thought of allowing them to have access to social media can certainly be cause for concern, especially if they are unsupervised in their access.   

While it’s not likely that an education expert or pediatrician would support giving unrestricted social media access to a five-year-old’s, there are many educational and medical professionals who make a case for letting ten or twelve-year-old’s experience social media.

Social media is so prevalent there are a number of social media platforms designed specifically for young children, including:

And with the introduction of social media platforms designed for younger kids, nearly one-third of seven to nine-year-old’s, and one-half of all ten to twelve-year-old’s, are regularly connected to social media at least once a day.

What’s the impact of such high social media usage among elementary aged-students? It depends on who you ask.

Positives of using social media platforms for young kids:

  • It allows children to communicate with their peers around the world
  • It encourages children to stay connected and share with others what they learn and experience
  • It gives children a voice as they document personal experiences through posts
  • It helps kids boost social interactions without feeling awkward or anxious
  • It teaches kids how to navigate positive and negative relationships with others

Negatives of using social media platforms for young children:

  • It puts kids more at risk for coming in contact with adults who might want to exploit or harm them
  • It opens them up to online bullying by peers and adults
  • It can damage their self-esteem with unrealistic body images and peer pressure for the right clothes or shoes
  • It can cause them to get addicted to screen time and the dopamine release that comes with it
  • It increases childhood rates of anxiety and depression
  • It put pressure on them 24/7 because they don’t have to be in the presence of someone, they just have to look on their phone

Social media should always be closely supervised for young kids.  There are too many pitfalls awaiting children on social media.  Taking the time to teach each child the right and wrong way to use these platforms, how and when to report things that make them uncomfortable, what information should never be shared and other behavior expectations will help keep them safe.