Should Children Have Access to Social Media?

No one can deny that social media has become an integral part of our lives. From spreading awareness of issues and reconnecting with old friends to propagating misinformation and widening rifts, it has had an undeniable impact on our society and on our mental health.

Its impact on our children is a topic of significant concern and debate. Many parents wonder whether children should have social media, or whether the dangers outweigh the benefits. Before giving a child free access to TikTok or Instagram, it’s important to consider the mental impact, advantages, and disadvantages associated with their usage.

The Benefits of Giving Children Access to Social Media

While there are valid concerns about social media use among children, it is essential to acknowledge the potential benefits it can offer.

Enhancing communication and social skills: Social media platforms provide children with opportunities to connect and communicate with their peers, both locally and globally. It can enhance their social skills, promote teamwork, and facilitate the development of valuable relationships.

Fostering creativity and self-expression: Platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok allow children to showcase their creativity and talents. They can create and share content, express themselves through art, music, or writing, and receive feedback and encouragement from others.

Providing educational resources and platforms: Social media platforms offer educational content and resources that can supplement traditional learning methods. They provide access to informative articles, educational videos, and online communities where children can engage in discussions related to their academic interests.

Promoting global awareness and cultural exchange: Social media exposes children to diverse perspectives, cultures, and ideas from around the world. It encourages them to develop a broader worldview, promotes empathy, and fosters a sense of global community.

The Disadvantages of Giving Children Access to Social Media

Despite the potential advantages, it is crucial to recognize the risks and challenges associated with children's social media use.

Potential negative impact on mental health: Excessive social media use can contribute to feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, and anxiety among children. The constant exposure to carefully curated online personas may lead to unhealthy comparisons and unrealistic expectations.

Exposure to cyberbullying and online harassment: Social media platforms can become breeding grounds for cyberbullying and online harassment, putting children at risk of emotional distress and psychological harm. As we all know, the anonymity provided by the online environment can embolden others to engage in harmful behavior.

Impact on sleep patterns and overall well-being: Excessive screen time, especially before bedtime, can disrupt children's sleep patterns and adversely affect their overall well-being. The constant stimulation and engagement with social media may hinder their ability to relax and unwind.

Risks of inappropriate content and online predators: Children may inadvertently encounter age-inappropriate content, including violence, explicit material, or misinformation. Additionally, they can become targets of online predators who can exploit their vulnerability and trust.

Adolescents, in particular, are more susceptible to engaging in risky behavior due to their developing brains and limited ability to fully comprehend the consequences of their actions. While they may sometimes act, talk, and look like adults, their prefrontal cortex (responsible for decision-making and impulse control) is not yet fully developed. This can lead to impulsive and uninhibited behavior, making them more prone to taking risks on social media. They may engage in activities such as sharing personal information with strangers, participating in potentially dangerous online challenges, or oversharing sensitive content (such as nude photos) without fully understanding the long-term implications. The combination of their innate curiosity, desire for social acceptance, and the allure of instant gratification can cloud their judgment and lead them into precarious situations online.

Given all of this, if you’re going to allow your child to have social media, it’s crucial to do so safely.

Guidelines for Safe Social Media Usage by Children

To ensure safe and responsible social media usage by children, the following guidelines are recommended:

Age-appropriate platforms and parental supervision: Parents should choose social media platforms that are suitable for their child's age and maturity level. They should actively monitor their child's online activities, maintain open communication, and provide guidance when necessary.

Education on privacy settings and online safety: Children should be educated about privacy settings, the importance of safeguarding personal information, and the potential risks associated with sharing too much online. They need to understand the concept of consent and the importance of reporting any suspicious or harmful behavior.

Promoting healthy digital habits and time limits: Parents and educators should encourage healthy digital habits, such as taking regular breaks from social media, engaging in offline activities, and setting reasonable time limits for screen use. Balancing online and offline experiences is essential for maintaining overall well-being.

Encouraging open communication and fostering trust: Creating an environment where children feel comfortable discussing their online experiences is vital. Parents and caregivers should foster trust, actively listen to their concerns, and provide support and guidance without judgment.

The Crucial Role of Parents and Caregivers

Parents play a vital role in shaping their child's online behavior. By actively participating in their online journey, providing guidance, and setting boundaries, parents can help mitigate potential risks and promote responsible social media usage.

While it may seem easiest to give in to your child’s pleas, completely free and open access to social media often backfires. In spite of parental guidance about the dangers of social media, the importance of balance, and how to keep themselves safe and healthy, even the most well-behaved, well-informed child can fall victim to predators, peer pressure, and smartphone addiction. Parents and caregivers need to monitor their children’s social media use to some degree to ensure their continued safety.

Parental control apps such as Bark can help parents monitor the content their children are consuming, manage their screen time, block access to certain websites, and get alerted about anything concerning. Apps like Bark have saved lives by alerting parents to suicidal ideation or plans, threats of violence, grooming by online predators, and severe bullying.

The Role of Educators and Mental Health Professionals

Addressing the challenges associated with children's social media use extends beyond parents and caregivers, requiring a collaborative effort from parents, educators, and mental health professionals. 

Instead of ignoring social media, educators should incorporate digital literacy and social media education into their curriculum. By teaching children about critical thinking, media literacy, and responsible online behavior, they can empower them to navigate the digital landscape safely and responsibly. Mental health professionals should be readily available to provide support and counseling to children who may be experiencing the negative effects of social media. They can help children develop healthy coping mechanisms, address any emotional challenges, and foster resilience.

Get Support to Navigate Social Media Use, Addiction, and Cyberbullying for Your Child

Given that social media is such an integral part of our daily lives, it is almost impossible to ignore it or ban it outright for your child. Many children whose parents have forbidden them from having social media find ways to make secret accounts where they can access it with zero supervision. Instead, it may be better to allow your child access to social media with guidelines, support, and communication in place.

If you have concerns about your child’s social media usage or need help addressing problems that they are experiencing due to social media, get support from a licensed mental health professional. At Medens Health, we’re here to help you develop a support system that serves your child and your family. Reach out to us by phone or text at (833) 624-5400, send us a message using our online contact form, or to register as a new patient get started here.


The information provided in this blog is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Reliance on any information provided in this blog is solely at your own risk. Always seek the advice of your physician or a qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding your medical or mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who is qualified to give you safe, professional, and ethical advice regarding your mental health.

If you or someone you are responsible for is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should call 9-1-1 and/or take them to the nearest emergency room.