How Much Social Media is Healthy?

Social media, which includes traditional platforms like Facebook and Instagram and video-based platforms like YouTube and TikTok, can have benefits if it’s used correctly and with healthy boundaries.

Each child is different. In general:


Avoid screen time.


Limit non-educational screen time, limit exposure to social media, and co-watch.


Limit social media, start talking about media literacy, and continue to co-watch.


Consider requests for access and work on a family plan for social media use.


Continue conversations about social media use, importance risks and benefits. Support your teen in problem-solving.


When Is My Child Ready?

What are signs that my child is mature enough for social media?

1. You have an open and trusting relationship.

Your child comes to you for help when they have a problem. And you can depend on your child to tell you the truth. Both are good signs they’ll update you about what’s happening in their social media spaces. Not quite there? It’s okay to wait on social media for your child until you strengthen your relationship and communication. How do you strengthen communication? By having more conversations.

2. They are confident in who they are.

Social media can open the door for bullying. And it’s hard to escape FOMO – fear of missing out. Kids who care less about what other kids think and don’t worry too much about being left out may be ready. It’s a good sign if they know how to resist peer pressure and stand up for themselves and their friends.

3. They respect the boundaries and expectations you set.

If your child respects the rules of your family, and steers clear of risky or secretive behavior, they are likely to do the same on social media. Social media is not a good choice if your child consistently breaks the rules when it comes to who and where they spend their time. If they’re not willing to agree to a social media plan, they may not be ready.

4. They know the rules for keeping safe, and let you know if they are concerned.

Not all social media “friends” are trustworthy, so it’s important that kids recognize what behavior steps over the line and are able to push back when that happens. Making overly personal requests, like asking for contact information or photos, is not appropriate. Neither is asking a child to do something they wouldn’t normally do in real life. We have more ideas on privacy and social media.

Once your child starts using social media, check in and ask specific questions about what they are doing, who they are interacting with, and what they like and don’t like. Keep an eye out for hints that their level of sad or anxious feelings are increasing.


Social Media Benefits

There are a number of ways social media can help kids grow and explore relationships and identity. Here are some of the most common benefits of social media use for tweens and teens.


Stronger relationships

Social media can help kids strengthen relationships they have in real life.  In fact, this type of digital communication is preferred by many teenagers for its ease and accessibility. Social media can also help teenagers explore romantic relationships.


Teenagers are seeking to understand their own identity – who they are and what they like and value. Social media can provide a space to explore options and try out different ways of expressing oneself.

Exploration of interests

Social media offers many kids an outlet for creativity and learning, while providing a chance to interact with others who share the same interests.


Social media also offers spaces for people to connect with others like themselves, which can be especially important if teenagers can’t connect with similar peers in real life. Communities based around racial and gender identity, and physical and mental health challenges can be a place of support and affirmation.


Social Media Risks

While there are benefits for some children, social media use can increase anxiety and depression, negatively influence brain development and potentially open kids up to inappropriate sharing, hurtful language, bullying and more. Social media can be even riskier for children diagnosed with ADHD, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.

Some of the most common risks for kids using social media include:

Fear of missing out (FOMO)

“FOMO” – seeing peers engage in exciting and interesting events – can negatively impact mental health.

Overemphasis of looks

Social media is increasingly visual. Girls can be especially impacted by the effort involved in maintaining their online presentation, and the peer feedback they receive. Social media encourages kids to think about themselves as a brand.

Replacement for real life interaction

Spending too much time on social media can prevent kids from learning skills to interact with others in real life – skills like understanding context, starting and maintaining conversations, and interpreting body language.

Permanent and public

Social media posts and interactions never really go away. This means the mistakes kids make as they grow and learn on social media don’t go away either. It can impact peer relationships, mental health, and even prospects, such as employment, in adulthood. Sexting is a risk here too.

Brain development

Social media is designed to hijack our brain’s reward center. Brains that are still developing are at risk for permanent changes to how rewards are perceived and sought.

Exposure to advertising

Social media is a powerful vehicle for advertisers to reach kids. And kids have a harder time identifying when advertisers are influencing the content and messages they see.

Exposure to negative content

Unbalanced exposure to negative news and hate speech can negatively impact the mental health of adults and kids.


Social media can provide space and easy access for kids to be harmed by peers – and to cause harm.


It can be difficult to know who exclusively online friends really are. Kids are at risk of meeting people online who present themselves as trustworthy confidants but actually seek to access or harm kids.