Social Media

Coinciding with the release of the Pediatrics Supplement on November 1, 2017, Children and Screens hosted an interdisciplinary summit with pediatric media experts, researchers, advocates, government agencies, and policymakers, on what is known and what still needs to be learned about the relationship between kids and screens. The following summarizes Supplement findings shared at the summit:


What do adolescents do with social media?

Adolescents use social media for a variety of activities, including sharing information, self-presentation, and interacting with others. Much of their interaction on these platforms is with peers from offline lives; however, depending on the affordance of the particular platform (e.g., Twitter), they may also interact with other individuals not in their offline friend network.

How have social media changed adolescents’ peer interactions?

It is certainly true that social media have led to wider social networks than before. They have also led to peer interactions that are often more immediate, exaggerated, and public. We need more longitudinal research to understand whether these wider networks provide youth with the intimacy and support they need to navigate the challenges of adolescence and emerging adulthood.

Have social media interactions made youth more lonely and depressed?

This is a complex issue, and the research suggests that for some youth, social media interactions can present risks. For instance, online bullying, often displayed through social media, is associated with more depressive symptoms than traditional bullying. Additionally, as social media are increasingly used through mobile technologies, they may result in changing sleep cycles for adolescents, which may contribute to depression. Teens who report having mobile devices in their bedrooms and leaving them on at night sleep less than those who turn them off. Lack of sleep is related to depressive symptoms, loss of memory, problems at school, motor vehicle crashes, and other serious issues.

Key Takeaways

  • Social media are used for a variety of activities, including sharing information, self-presentation, and interacting with others. Adolescents, who are highly attuned to peer relationships, find the social component of many of these platforms especially compelling, and majority report using them.
  • Research on adolescents’ social media use suggests both benefits and costs. With regard to benefits,
    research has found that when young people use social media, it helps them reach key milestones, such as creating their identities and goals and engaging with peers. By and large, today’s online environments reflect, complement, and reinforce what is happening in offline environments.
  • Social media use during adolescence can have negative effects on adolescents’ health and development. Most adolescents say that social media is a positive force in their lives, but more negative effects have been documented, including cyberbullying, depression, social anxiety, and exposure to
    developmentally inappropriate content. Additionally, ads for sexual content, alcohol, and other unhealthy products can easily reach children and adolescents via social media.

Additional Information


Uhls, Y.T., et al. Benefits and Costs of Social Media in Adolescence.

The analysis, conclusions, and recommendations contained in each paper are solely a product of the individual workgroup and are not the policy or opinions of, nor do they represent an endorsement by, Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development.