How Can Social Network Sites Affect Teens?

By C. Giles
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Social networking is a huge part of the modern teenager's life. According to a 2012 survey by Common Sense Media, nine out of 10 teens use social networking sites, with 50 percent of respondents visiting them on a daily basis. Parents of teenagers may be concerned about the negative effects of social websites, but they can also have a positive impact. By being aware of the websites your teen visits and how much time she devotes to them, you can help ensure the social networking experience is a positive one.

New Friendships

Teenagers can form new friendships by connecting with peers on social networking sites. Teens who are shy or have low self-esteem may find it easier to chat with others online than face to face. If a teenager has a particular hobby or interest, she can connect with other like-minded teens by joining virtual groups and chat rooms devoted to the topic. Fifty percent of the teenagers who took part in the Common Sense Media survey said they feel social networks have had a positive impact on their friendships.

Community Engagement

By engaging with a virtual community, teenagers have the opportunity to get involved with local politics and charity projects, which is another positive aspect of social networking sites. If a teenager has personal issues she finds difficult to discuss with her family and friends face to face, the Internet offers anonymity and privacy.

Obsession

Social networking can quickly take over a teenager's life and take priority over other interests, school work, sleep and socializing with friends in the real world. Teens may become so absorbed in what they are doing online that they lose track of time. The Common Sense Media survey reported that 20 percent of the teens questioned considered themselves addicted to social sites.

Depression

A 2012 study by researchers from two German universities concluded that social networking could lead to negative feelings, the so-called "Facebook Depression." The report -- entitled "Envy on Facebook: A Hidden Threat to Users’ Life Satisfaction?" suggested that social networking sites can increase feelings of envy and dissatisfaction, particularly among passive users -- in other words, those who appear to be fairly inactive on the sites but in actual fact spend a great deal of time scrolling through other users' posts and looking at their photographs.

About the Author

C. Giles is a writer with an MA (Hons) in English literature and a post-graduate diploma in law. Her work has been published in several publications, both online and offline, including "The Herald," "The Big Issue" and "Daily Record."