Does Social Media Use Impact My Kid's Self-Esteem?

Yesterday we posted an article about how kids, teens, and young adults typically have high numbers of Facebook friends, yet most don't have actual, one-on-one interactions with more than 3% of their "friends". Do follower and friend counts among social media profiles serve more as a self-esteem boost and status symbol than as an actual indication of one's popularity? What do social media sites actually do for teens' and kids' self-esteem?

In the past few years, you may have heard one or two conflicting studies reported on the subject of social media's impact on self-esteem. A variety of research centers and psychologists have come to a multitude of conclusions on the matter. Since social media is still relatively new, it is difficult to find a concise answer about the direct implications of social media. Here is a brief synopsis of released studies on the subject:

Social media positively impacts self-esteem:

  • A 2011 Cornell University study found that Facebook can have a positive impact on the self-esteem of college students, since users are able to control how they are depicted through profiles. Social profiles allow people to filter the things that they don't wish to share with others and highlight their triumphs

  • In 2013, a study by Utah undergraduates found that Facebook users who are briefly exposed to their own profiles experience a boost in self-esteem

  • A 2012 Common Sense Media study found that about one in five teens report that social media increases their confidence. The study also found that 29% of respondents believe social media makes them feel less shy and 28% attested that it makes them feel more outgoing

Social media negatively impacts self-esteem:

  • A 2013 Flinders University study concluded that the more time girls spent on social media, the more likely that they were to be dissatisfied with their body image and experience low self-esteem

  • A 2011 American Academy of Pediatrics study on "Facebook Depression" found that teens and preteens who spend excessive time on Facebook tend to show signs of depression 

  • The Human–Computer Institute at Carnegie Mellon found that "passive consumption" of friends' social media activities and your own "broadcasts to wider audiences" on Facebook have a correlationship with feelings of depression and loneliness

  • In 2013, two German universities found that “passive following” on Facebook triggers users to experience envy and resentment (especially when viewing vacation photos)

The one thing that many studies agree on is that self-esteem is affected by how social media sites are used. Most studies conclude that excessive time spent on social media can lead to low self-esteem, but that the way social media used is more of an accurate measurement. It seems that those who use Facebook and social media for the purpose of updating their own profiles are better off than those who spend hours scrolling through their feeds ("passive following").

We'll have to wait for more definitive studies testing both the quality and quantity of social media effects on teens' self-esteem to learn more comprehensively on the matter. You may have noticed that most of these studies only tested Facebook as their social media channel. This is most likely due to the novelty of social media studies, as Facebook is one of the oldest social media sites that is still being used today by millions. It will be interesting to see what researchers conclude about the impacts that other social media sites may have on self-esteem, since each site employs users to perform different social activities.

What parents can do: 

  1. Don't only monitor the quantity of time that your kids and teens spend on social accounts. The quality of the social media activities that they engage in can clearly impact their self-esteem and well-being. Both the quantity and quality of time spent online are important.

  2. Encourage your kids to engage in positive social media activities, such as viewing their own profiles or fostering their interests. 

  3. Let your kids know that they should take what they see on their social media feeds with a grain of salt. To some degree, everyone reflects the good in their lives and filters out failures in their profiles.

Attend our Teens, Tech & Health Twitter Party this Wednesday, May 28th, from 1-2 PM EDT to continue the discussion and share your thoughts about social media and self-esteem! Learn more and RSVP here.



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