7 Surprising Benefits of Social Media

Social media is more than a vehicle for cyberbullying

Almost every day there are reports of cyberbullying in the news. Combine this with the fact that victims of cyberbullying often suffer significant consequences, and it is not surprising that most parents equate social media with something that is bad for kids.

And while it is important for parents to instill healthy habits surrounding social media use, including limiting and monitoring time online, it is also important to recognize that social media is not a bad thing.

It only becomes a bad thing when people misuse it for bullying, public shaming and rumor spreading. In fact, research shows there are numerous benefits to social media use. Here are the top ways your teen may benefit from using social media.

Benefits of Social Media

Social media can strengthen friendships. There is no doubt that friendships are a key component of teen life. When kids have healthy friendships, they not only feel accepted for who they are, but they also feel more empowered and connected to the world around them. Friends also can speak truth into their lives and encourage them to explore their dreams.

What's more, research has shown that having at least one solid friendship can go a long way in preventing bullying. In fact, bullies often target teens that are alone or isolated. But teens that have a core group of friends often have a built-in layer of protection from bullying.


And when it comes to friendships and social media more than half of teens believe that it helps their friendships. In fact, according to a study by Common Sense Media, 52 percent of teens felt that social media improved their friendships and only 4 percent felt it hurt them. Additionally, the study found that nearly 30 percent of social media users believe that social networking makes them feel more confident and outgoing.

Social media is a vehicle for doing good. Whether teens are developing fundraisers or supporting an important cause, social media is a great vehicle for teens to make an impact in their communities. In fact, some movements have even started simply by teens leveraging social media to build awareness for an issue all from the comforts of their home.

Whether they are making YouTube videos or developing Twitter campaigns, teens have more impact in the world around them than ever before simply because of social media. Moreover, their voices are being heard more frequently. Finally, social media exposes kids to important issues all over the world not just those in their communities. As a result, they realize that social media is way for them to help and support people despite being so far away. They can instantaneously make an impact on things like hunger in Africa, preserving the rainforest or providing educational tools for kids without resources.

The key is that parents encourage their kids to use social media for more than just selfies.

Instead, show them how to use it as tool to affect the world. Doing so also help your teen develop kindness and gratitude.

Social media reduces feelings of isolation. While social media can make adults feel lonelier, researchers are finding the opposite may be true for teens. In fact, a study conducted by the Griffith University and the University of Queensland in Australia found that even though teens have fewer friends than teens did a decade ago, they still report feeling less lonely than their counterparts. They also report feeling less isolated. The researchers maintain that a lot of this has to do with the impact of social media and technology on their lives.

In fact, one of the study's authors suggests that as teens find their niche, they are becoming more individualistic and more extroverted and have higher self-esteem. What's more, this increased individuality makes teens more secure in existing friendships and reduces feelings of loneliness overall. This is especially true if those friendships are healthy.

Finally, their research also suggests that teens are developing stronger social skills in large part due to social media use. As technology becomes a bigger part of everyday life, solid online communication skills are important. Through social media, teens are learning how to navigate not only social networking sites but also other methods of online communication. In the end, this experience makes them better communicators in an increasingly digital world.

Social media is a vehicle for authentic support. Years ago, if teens were interested in a quirky subject or they were grappling with who they were as a person, they often felt marginalized and alone, especially if there were no others like them in their communities or at school. However, with the birth of the online world, teens are now able to connect with others that share similar interests, desires, and concerns. In return, this connection helps them feel validated and secure in who they are.

Another way teens are finding support is through online communities that offer support for issues plaguing them. For instance, kids struggling with issues like drug addiction and eating disorders now can find help and support online without ever having to leave their homes. This is especially helpful for teens in small communities or rural areas where resources may be limited.

What's more, suicidal teens can even get immediate access to quality online support. One example of online support occurred when a Reddit Minecraft community talked a teen out of suicide. Aside from posting positive comments and messages, more than 50 of the users used voice conferencing to persuade the teen not to go through with it. This is a perfect example of how social media and technology can benefit teens today.

Social media can be used for platform building. Your teen can use social media to begin developing an online presence that can help her gather the attention of colleges and future employers. For instance, some teens make YouTube videos or write blog posts using something they are passionate about as the subject matter.

One example might include a young teen who has a passion for reading and writing. As a result, she might write book reviews or film videos with her thoughts, ideas, and comments. As her work gains traction online, she may even develop a large following which could even include authors, literary agents, and publishers. Then, when she applies for college she can reference her social media accounts on her college application. This work she did on her own not only demonstrates her creativity and maturity but it also shows that she is a self-starter.

What's more, when done correctly building a platform on social media can open a lot of doors for teens and help them build a positive online reputation. It can expose them to college scholarships, college networks and even a future career. And when parents encourage this type of online activity, it changes their teen's perspective of social media. No longer do they see social media as just a place to post silly pictures or to observe digital drama. It becomes a tool they can use to share their passions and eventually find a career path.

Social media is vehicle for personal expression. There is no denying the fact that digital technology is the perfect tool for channeling creativity and personal expression. Kids now can share their talents in a wide range of areas. Whether they enjoy singing, writing or acting, they can share these talents with the world around them. Even kids that enjoy fashion, make up trends or craft projects can find a way to express themselves online. 

Providing this avenue of self expression is important for teens. In fact, research shows that there is a direct connection between self expression and self confidence. When kids are given avenues for being authentic and true to themselves, they become content with who they are and happier overall. By contrast, when they do not have many opportunities to express themselves or they do not know people with the same passions or interests, they begin to wonder if there is something wrong with them. They also question why they are not like everyone else.

Social media is a tool for gathering information. Social media has become a source of information and news for many teens. Once they begin social networking, they can follow just about anyone with a social media account. From favorite authors and athletes, to celebrities, chefs, nonprofit organizations and magazines, they are connected to all sorts of information. 

Teens also can gather information about issues that impact them or their friends. For instance, if they are concerned a friend might have an eating disorder or a drug addiction, they can gather information about it. Or, if they want to learn more about a presidential election, climate change or even find new ways to eat healthy, they can do so on their social media accounts. 

Overall, social media does not have to be scary. Even though it can be exploited by bullies, instilling good digital etiquette and maintaining an open dialogue about online safety can go a long way in keeping kids safe online. As a parent, make sure you are nurturing the positive aspects of social media as well as discussing the dangers. By doing so, you will help your kids develop social media savvy, a skill that will ultimately help them in the years to come.

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