Social Media and the Unexpected Effects It’s Having on Adolescents

It’s no secret that social media has taken over the minds of almost every person around the world. Whether it’s for business or pleasure, at some point we have all indulged in the temptations of these platforms. While social media was initially created to expand social circles and communicate with distant friends and family, it has taken an unexpected turn when it comes to the adolescent population.

Social Media Benefits

Before we discuss the negative outcomes of these social applications, we should acknowledge the positives. The media allows teens to:

  • Broaden social networks from all over the world
  • Express themselves creatively and authentically
  • Connect them with resources and communities with similar interests
  • Entertainment and distractions
  • Expose themselves to current events

Social media has indeed accomplished the goal it was originally trying to achieve, however there were some unexpected consequences along the way.

Social Media Harms

As these platforms continue to increase in popularity, the unexpected negative effects are also growing, especially with teenagers.

Bullying and Rumors

Name-calling and rumor-spreading have always been an unfortunate issue during the adolescent period. With social media however, it’s much easier to engage with the harassment. Being bullied online, also known as cyberbullying, is an issue that only continues to get worse over time.

Perpetrators are able to remain anonymous if they want, making rude comments and posting discriminating content. It happens frequently due to the harassment taking place virtually rather than face to face. It feels safer to jump on the bandwagon when there’s a screen to hide behind.


While distractions are helpful every once in a while, it is possible that these distractions turn into all-around avoidance. Scrolling, posting, watching, and reading social media websites can become addictive. We would much rather watch a humorous video on TikTok or Snapchat than take care of responsibilities. Media is so easily accessible that it makes procrastination tendencies much worse.

Peer Pressure

It is common to feel pressure from social media to conform to the ways other people look and act. Influencers are individuals who use social media to inspire a specific population. They often use good looks and fun personalities to gain followers.

As impressionable as teenagers are, they might start to change the way they dress or engage with different interests simply because someone they follow online is doing the same. Influencers with a massive following can even start “trends” that instantly become popular. If teens desire to fit in, they may start to join in on these trends.

Unrealistic Expectations

Social media promotes a distorted view on life, whether that’s looks and appearances, professional aspirations, relationships, or experiences. People only tend to post about the positives in their life, wanting to show off their new partner, job, or share about their trip abroad. Rarely do we see people post about all the negatives happening to them.

We start to feel bad about ourselves, wondering why we can’t look like this person or have a happy relationship like that person. Why can’t you afford a trip to Italy, but someone you used to go to high school with can? With all the filters, fake smiles, and editing, social media is causing more harm than good.

What Can Parents Do?

One of the main ways parents can support their teen is to properly educate them about the media. Having conversations about peer pressure, unrealistic expectations, and distractions can be beneficial for adolescents to hear. It will allow them to continue using social media for the benefits, but being cautious about the harms.

If you notice your child experiencing negative effects from the use of social media, it may be beneficial to seek help from a mental health professional. Counselors can help support parents with monitoring the use of the media, while also helping the child understand the dangers of engaging with these platforms too much. Reach out and schedule a session today!