Have you considered why social media can be bad for kids?

According to research by Common Sense Media, a growing number of tweens – kids aged eight to 12 – are using social media. However, Parents are increasingly concerned that heavy amounts of social media use is harmful for young people. But exactly why is social media bad for kids? Below are six reasons that parents can consider.

Social media may not be developmentally appropriate for kids

As children get older, there is a fundamental shift in the brain. Kids simply don’t have the same prefrontal cortex development as adults, meaning they are less capable of controlling their impulses.

This shift makes social rewards (such as chat “streaks”) more appealing to kids and positive attention from peers (such as “likes”) much more desirable. For example, one study by the Association for Psychological Science (APS) examined how kids dole out their social media likes. The researchers found kids were more likely to approve of social media images as the number of existing likes increased, regardless of what the images showed. Good, neutral, or risky, kids like what other kids like.

Social media platforms may not have kids’ best interests in mind

A report by the U.S. Surgeon General highlights some of the concerns about social media use by young people. In particular, the report discusses excessive or problematic use of social media can harm children by disrupting healthy behaviors. Additionally, many children report “feeling addicted” to social media and that it would be “hard to give up” using social media.

Many people working at social media companies are aware of this sad reality. In internal documents, former Facebook researchers reported that the company designed its algorithm to keep kids engaged despite knowing that their platforms were having a negative impact on the mental health of teens.

Children are less likely to deal well with rejection on social media

Parents should be aware that kids may not be able to regulate how they feel about negative social media attention. A child’s less-developed prefrontal cortex doesn’t just make them seek social validation – it also means they have less ability to control their reactions if they do not receive the validation they were expecting, such as not receiving an anticipated number of likes.

Children may experience more depression and anxiety with increased social media use

Another reason why social media can be bad for kids is that increased social media use has been linked to experiencing more symptoms of depression and anxiety. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Psychiatry found that young people were more likely to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety if they used a social media app for three or more hours a day. These symptoms include:

  • Poorer sleep quality
  • Negative perceptions of their body image
  • Poor self-esteem

Children may end up feeling addicted to social media apps

A Pew Research Center survey found that more than half of respondents were on the Internet “almost constantly.” About a sixth of respondents reported constant use of the social media apps YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat. Doctors are recognizing that compulsive social media use by young people shares characteristics with gambling addictions and substance abuse.

Read more about social media addiction in teens.

Frequent social media use can alter how kids’ brains develop

When kids use social media frequently, it can have a lasting impact on how their brain develops.

A study published in JAMA Pediatrics found that the brains of kids who frequently checked social media platforms became more responsive to social feedback than peers who were less habitual social media users.

So, is social media bad for kids?

While young people over 13 can use social media apps to connect with peers and family, parents should be aware that there are many dangers for kids when using social media. Social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat and TikTok may exploit developing brains and harm children’s mental well-being.

Families of young people who have been harmed by social media usage have started to push to hold social media companies accountable for how their platforms encourage mental health issues.

If you’re interested in learning more about how these companies can be held accountable, read more about social media lawsuits here.