The positive and negative effects of social media on children’s development 2021

effects of social media
Children reach milestones in how they play, learn, speak, behave and move.  

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Table of Contents

Effects on Social Media & Child Development

Social media is a computer-based technology that facilitates the sharing of ideas, thoughts and information through the building of virtual networks and communities. By design, social media is Internet-based and gives users quick electronic communication of content.  

The original purpose of social media is primarily to build a brand and increase the brand’s invisibility. However, with social media becoming more popular social media also refers to the means and interactions among people in which they create, share and/or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks. 

A child’s development can be defined as the process by which a child changes over time. Their development incorporates physical growth as well as intellectual, language and emotional and social development. Children reach milestones in how they play, learn, speak, behave and move.  

  • What is important to a child’s development? 

Healthy development means that children of all abilities, including those with special health care needs, are able to grow up where their social, emotional and educational needs are meant. Having a safe and loving home and spending time with family are very important.  

Perhaps, most importantly, studying human development makes it easier to spot possible signs of trouble. From problems with cognitive, social or emotional development in early childhood to struggles later in life, being able to identify potential problems is imperative.  

The positive effects of social media

As the internet has progressed children are using it more and more as it becomes the norm of a way to have fun, make and maintain friendships/relationships, share interests, explore identities and develop relationships with family. It is an extension of their offline and face-to-face interactions.  

  • Building Relationships

Social media is not just about brands connecting with consumers and customers. In fact, as its root, social media is about connecting people to others. Throughout the covid-pandemic, it has served as an essential platform for families and loved ones to engage digitally when they couldn’t in the outer world. This kept family and friends’ relationships prominent within children’s lives within different communications relating to social media.  

In addition, a lot of the time can be wasted and lost if children struggle to communicate with their peers and teachers within the classroom.  With the emergence of social media and the peer-to-peer learning we just discussed. Giving children a channel to communicate and connect with others online must just be the right medium and outlet they need. 

effects of social media
  • Competent in the Digital Age

As much as we may hate the thought of our children spending hours on social media. There is no denying that it is the future of digital.  

Not only does it allow children to communicate and become accustomed to the new digital world. It also broadens their view and improves their social skills as they learn to participate in conversations, they are passionate about online. Moreover, the likelihood of children using this medium in their future occupations is extremely high.  

social media
  • Express Themselves

Children generally can distinguish quite quickly when and when not to talk freely about their thoughts and opinions within society this can be with friends, family or even teachers/peers.  

The fact of the matter is, some children feel the need to express themselves by using social media. Some in a negative way and some in a positive way. 

If your child has expressed an interest in something within society, they could become more comfortable in researching and expressing themselves on social media with different social/study groups of like-minded people, make sure that children can contribute and share ideas. 

  • Learning

Social media has had many effects on society and child development. One of the more surprising aspects of society is the way kids learn. A side effect that isn’t talked about that much is the fact that it had introduced a more peer-based learning method. 

Not only do children learn from parents and teachers, but they now have the ability to learn from their peers. This might arguably not be effective, however, the ability to learn, give feedback and receive feedback really does refine the learning process. 

  • NOTE: For teachers…if your students weren’t enthusiastic about learning before, you might just find that learning through social media and the internet for such things as research tasks or creating presentations as part of active learning can create a love for learning in interesting ways. 
morning routine

The negative effects of social media

As much as there are positives about social media it isn’t without negative effects on social media especially due to a log of headlines that have been published in media which depicts social media as negative for children. Which in turn does need addressing to keep children safe online(You can read our child safety online blog for more on this.) 

  • Social Media Addiction

Any addiction is bad. For children to be constantly checking their social media feeds, ignoring the world around them and feeling bad and dejected because they didn’t get many likes or engagement on their posts is a real concern. 

The “likes” and “shares” engagement tool has been designed to encourage habit-forming and a form of a reward system especially with the rise of the application “Tik-Tok”. Stimulating that part of the mind that inherently wants to have pleasure. In turn, your body starts to produce the chemical dopamine. 

When you receive a social media notification your brain sends a chemical signal (dopamine) that travels along the reward pathway that makes us feel good. It is normally associated with exercise, love, sex, gambling and the use of drugs. However, we can add a new option to this list, “social media”. What we aren’t totally aware of is how damaging this could be in the long term for children of this day and age.  

effects on social media
  • Time Wasted

Time is precious, children waste hundreds of hours on social media. Whether it be browsing, talking to their friends or playing a game. Whatever the reason is this is time wasted. In fact, it is time that children will not get back. 

These early years of children lives are a discovery period for soaking up knowledge and learning from curiosity. If most of a child’s time is spent on social media without increasing their knowledge, then this could result in poor performance and bad grades.  

effects of social media
  • Mental Health

Psychologists have long studied the harmful effects social media can have on our mental health. Being so vulnerable at such a young age means that children are more prone to be affected than adults are.  

Some children can check their feeds as much as 100 times a day and feel disappointed when their engagement and likes does not meet their expectations. It may also surprise adults that some of this time spent on social media is mainly during school hours.  

When talking about mental health there is always a stigma around it and this can make a lot of older children feel more withdrawn to talk and express their feelings about themselves etc. We need to understand that mental health can manifest itself earlier in younger years to properly reinforce how important having a positive mindset and healthy wellbeing is early on. 

Today’s “Generation X” and even some millennials have never known life without the internet. For them sharing every opinion and feeling the need to log every few minutes to check their feed is entirely normal. Maybe teachers and parents should be asking is it too normal for children to be that immersed into social media, so early within their childhood? 

  • Detracts from Real Life

It is important for young people to have a good grasp on what is real and what is fantasy. Screen relationships with friends that children know online are fine but when this becomes an issue is when a conversation comes up with someone that the child does not know. 

It is important that children at an early age learn to read non-verbal ques and gestures. We as social creatures crave real social interaction which is so important to develop the skills needed to understand people’s emotions and moods. 

Without these skills, children will find it hard to communicate and be empathetic in the future.  


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