The Surprise Effects of Social Media on Today’s Teenagers

By Bekki Bushnell, Head of Business Development

The change in the way people socialise as a result of social media is not exactly ‘news’. Like many people do these days if I want to ask what time we’re meeting, I’ll send you a Whatsapp message. If I’ve gone on holiday I’ll upload my photos to Facebook or Instagram.

Gone are the days of knocking on friends’ doors to see if they were coming out after school or picking up a landline telephone to make plans for a night out. We can be in constant contact with friends without ever actually coming face to face. The core anatomy of friendship, and even romance, has changed and with that comes a whole host of issues and dangers that we are accustomed to hearing about in the media, particularly when it comes to teenagers. Grooming, revenge porn, catfishing and other general issues that arise from the ability to be seemingly anonymous are just a few of the problems that unfortunately are all too real.

But hang on — this is a lot of doom and gloom, and I made a promise to myself that this wasn’t going to be that kind of blog post. There are some positive side effects and uses of social media that won’t make you want to throw your phone into the Thames.

Interestingly, when it comes to teenage pregnancy, rates have dropped since 2007 and Professor David Paton from Nottingham University Business School thinks it could be due to the rise of social media. He suggests that it’s no coincidence that since 2007 the prevalence of having a social media profile has rocketed from 22{20156fe61baea400d2663eb990f17abdabeb6ef183a2129287a793abd8ac1d8a} to just under 75{20156fe61baea400d2663eb990f17abdabeb6ef183a2129287a793abd8ac1d8a} in people aged 16 and over whilst the rate of teenage pregnancies has dropped by 45{20156fe61baea400d2663eb990f17abdabeb6ef183a2129287a793abd8ac1d8a} in the same time frame.

These statistics could be indicative of the way social media has changed the way teenagers bond, in this case replacing physical intimacy with online interaction. Interestingly, since 2005 the number of young people (aged 16 to 24) abstaining from alcohol has risen by more than 40{20156fe61baea400d2663eb990f17abdabeb6ef183a2129287a793abd8ac1d8a}, according to the Office for National Statistics’ Adult Drinking Habits in Great Britain report Whilst the reasons behind this figure are likely to include other factors, such as religion as a result of increased immigration, it is reasonable to assume that the explosion of social media can also account for this apparent decrease in teenage drinking.

The Ideal to Real TODAY/AOL Body Image survey has also revealed that 65{20156fe61baea400d2663eb990f17abdabeb6ef183a2129287a793abd8ac1d8a} of teenage girls feel their confidence is boosted by seeing their selfies on social media. Despite concerns that social media encourages competition between young people and in turn leads to low self-esteem, it appears that actually teenagers view social media as a platform to promote their ‘best self’. This offers them a way to manage their own reputations therefore increasing perceptions of self-efficacy, which in psychological terms boosts confidence as people feel they can control their surroundings.

Social media is undoubtedly a continuing hot topic when it comes to wellbeing, especially amongst young people. Whilst we should be aware of the dangers of increasingly living our lives online and put measures in place to protect young people from these, social media doesn’t need to be all negative. Teenage pregnancies are at a record low, more young people are turning their backs to alcohol and teenage girls are feeling confident and in control — that’s definitely something to Tweet about!