Despite what we're told, social media is not all about likes and selfies. For many teens, it has benefits that enhance their lives. It’s not only fun, but it can help improve reading, communication and literacy skills, alongside opening up to everything from entrepreneurship ideas to global and political issues.
Louise Hill, co-founder and COO of GoHenry, agrees. "While there will always be risks to being online, for many young people, the benefits of social media are very wide-ranging and include connection, learning and peer support, as well as a level of digital literacy that can help them access shared interests on issues that are important to them. This peer support can’t be underestimated, especially if they are feeling alone or isolated.”
What are the benefits of social media for kids and teens?
One of the biggest pluses of social media for young people is collaborative learning. Unlike individual learning, collaborative learning capitalises on the resources and skills of others as a method of education – and it’s something young people are actively doing across YouTube and TikTok.
#Booktok (60.8 billion views) on TikTok, for example, is all about literature, with users sharing their passion for books with millions and boosting sales of previously unknown authors, while #Fintok is doing the same for financial education. Over on Twitter, teens find access to political debates and can become politically informed while watching debates unfold.
Alongside this, platforms like Instagram and TikTok have become places for thousands of healthcare professionals, including psychologists and mental health advocates such as DrJulie and DrShepard-MD. These professionals use social media's widespread reach to talk about everything from teen depression to ADHD and anxiety to help young people understand what they are going through. As a result, 43% of teens say social media makes them feel better when they're depressed, stressed, or anxious.
72% of teens see Instagram as a good place to strengthen and build relationships with friends and family members. This data is backed up by research from the Pew Research Center into teens and their experiences on social media, which found that social media is a crucial tool for connection and relationship maintenance.
As a result, young people believe social media helps deepen friendships and are more likely to equate their social media use with positive emotions. 81% say it helped them feel more connected to their friends, and 68% said it helped them feel they had support through tough times.
Studies show that social media use may also help people to decrease their sense of loneliness. When used as a tool it can build and strengthen genuine connections with others, increasing perceived social support, self-esteem, and satisfaction. This is a result of finding like-minded people who understand and share common ground over issues that are pertinent to teens, such as mental health awareness, exam stress and more.
There's nothing like social media to help broaden young people's knowledge of the world and improve their digital and media literacy. Internetmatters.org agree, "Social media can offer children valuable opportunities to develop skills and build a good digital footprint. Children can learn to appreciate different perspectives and worldviews to help them better understand the world. And with so many ideas shared across several platforms, they can discover areas of interest to help make a real-world impact on effecting change where they want to see it."
Help your child to get the best out of the issues they care about by making time to discuss what they post and what they see on their social feeds. Ask them about what inspires them, what they have learnt, what they like and more importantly, how it impacts them in their lives.
Digital and media literacy
Social media can also help your kids learn a lot about digital media and financial literacy. FinTok on TikTok has racked up 1.4 billion views and shares a wealth of practical personal finance videos teaching young people how to manage their money better. You can also use social media platforms to help educate your kids on advertising, privacy settings and scams.
Louise Hill agrees, "Social media is an excellent way to educate your kids on the different types of ads that will appear on social media, from the posts on a brand's feed to posts that have been published by an influencer. This is a good way to bring home messages about how others will entice them to buy products. To help them avoid overspending, set up spending limits on their cards to protect them."
Good place to start a fundraiser
For teens and young people who are committed to issues and campaigns, social media is also a fantastic place to start a fundraising campaign or get involved in one. This is because social media can be a powerful tool to build relationships with supporters and donors. Facebook says that charities have now raised a total of £803m raised through Facebook birthday fundraising
with one in seven people who donate using a website or app doing so through social media.
A place to develop a positive digital footprint
Data from Generation Aspiration in our Youth Economy Report 2022 also shows that kids in the UK earned a total of £148 million in 2021. This represents a 9% increase in earnings per child since 2020, more than double the average weekly wage growth for adults.
Since the pandemic, it's become more common for kids to become social media entrepreneurs. Our data shows that a quarter of kids and teens (25%) earn from selling things on online marketplaces such as Etsy, eBay, Depop and Vinted, and 12% of 7-year-olds are already making money from social media, topping up their pocket money payments from kid-influencing each month.
If your kids also have a strong interest in something like Climate Change, participating in social media group forums,or maintaining a blog about their interests,is another way to develop a positive digital footprint.
Developing communication skills
Don’t forget to talk to your kids about what they are posting and sharing online and their online etiquette. One of the benefits of social media is being able to develop your communication skills online. So remind your kids to be conscious of what they say and do online (as they would in a real world scenario). This is vital not only for a positive digital footprint for their future but also to maintain the positive impact social media can have on them.
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