Social Media has Benefits for Youth

(Taken from a recent essay I wrote about 3 factors influencing youth)

The Internet, in particular the use of social media, is a relatively new technology which “…has been vilified as a powerful new tool for the devil” (Bargh & McKenna, 2004, p. 573).  Critics of social media describe the participants as depressed, lonely and addicted people that are threatened with cyber-bulling and online predator risks while also disconnected from off-line community ties  (Valenzuela, Park, & Kee, 2009; Valkenburg & Peter, 2009).  This criticism has created fear which has impacted schools often resulting in limited Internet access and discouragement of social media use  (Ahn, 2011; Greenhow & Robelia, 2009).  This fear of new technology has been experienced in the past with the introduction of the telephone and television (Bargh & McKenna, 2004; Valenzuela et al., 2009). 

Facebook is the most popular social media site and the second most visited site in the world with approximately 700 million unique visitors per month  (eBizMBA, 2013).  Facebook allows users to share their feelings and add new contacts while maintaining and building on existing friendships (Ahn, 2011; Cotten, 2008; Greenhow & Robelia, 2009; Mesch & Talmud, 2010; Valkenburg & Peter, 2009).  Youth participation in social media influences their socio-emotional functioning through the potential of increased social connectedness and the formation and maintenance of social capital which increases well-being, life satisfaction and civic engagement (Ahn, 2011; Valenzuela et al., 2009).  Valkenburg and Peter (2009) proposed that online communication increased adolescent social connectedness through an Internet-enhanced self-disclosure hypothesis.  Maintaining friendships and building weak-tie friendships via social media stimulates self-disclosure which builds trust and increases the quality of friendships  (Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2007; Valkenburg & Peter, 2009).  This results in increased social connectedness through social capital formation and has been suggested as a positive way to help adolescents experiencing low self-esteem and low life satisfaction (Ahn, 2011; Bargh & McKenna, 2004; Ellison et al., 2007; Gross, Juvonen, & Gable, 2002).

Ellison, Steinfeld and Lampe (2007) and Valenzuela, Park and Kee (2009) conducted studies of tertiary students with findings suggesting an association between Facebook use and increased social capital.  The studies confirmed that the majority of students used Facebook to maintain and develop friendships which aligns with current theoretical views that contrast with earlier negative-outcome research from the 1990s (Ellison et al., 2007; Valenzuela et al., 2009).  The Ellison et al. (2007) study was limited to only Michigan State University participants which did not include a broad multicultural or international range of participants. Valenzuela et al. (2009) included a larger study of 2,603 college students from Texas and found that socioeconomic status of participants did not impact the relationship between Facebook use and social capital; however, ethnicity moderated the relationship (Valenzuela et al., 2009) which supports the theory that social media participation may help decrease the socioeconomic and cultural digital divide  (Ahn, 2011). 

Antheunis and Schouten (2011) conducted research with 497 high school students between the ages of twelve and fifteen years on the relationship between social attraction, a socio-emotional dimension, and adolescents’ use of social media.  During adolescence peer relationships and peer acceptance are important central features of socio-emotional functioning which are related to adolescent well-being and self-esteem  (Oberle, Schonert-Reichl, & Thomson, 2010).  Social media tools, like Facebook, have main features that support friendship maintenance and self-presentation management  (Ahn, 2011; Antheunis & Schouten, 2011).  Facebook allows adolescents to design a positive image by portraying themselves via photos and encouraging peers to comment on their attractiveness   (Antheunis & Schouten, 2011).  This aligns with the current theoretical literature that suggests a positive relationship between social media use and adolescents’ socio-emotional functioning.

Ahn, J. (2011). The effect of social network sites on adolescents’ social and academic development: current theories and controversies. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 62(8), 1435-1445.

Antheunis, M. L., & Schouten, A. P. (2011). The effects of other-generated and system-generated cues on adolescents’ perceived attractiveness on social network sites. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 16(3), 391-406.

Cotten, S. R. (2008). Students’ technology use and the impacts on well-being. New Directions for Student Services(124), 55-70.

eBizMBA. (2013, August). Top 15 most popular websites: August 2013. Retrieved September 1, 2013, from eBizMBA: The eBusiness Knowledgebase:

Ellison, N. B., Steinfield, C., & Lampe, C. (2007). The benefits of facebook “friends:” social capital and college students’ use of online social network sites. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12(4), 1143-1168.

Greenhow, C., & Robelia, B. (2009). Informal learning and identity formation in online social networks. Learning Media and Technology, 34(2), 119-140.

Mesch, G. S., & Talmud, I. (2010). Wired youth: the social world of adolescence in the information age. London: Routledge.

Oberle, E., Schonert-Reichl, K. A., & Thomson, K. C. (2010). Understanding the link between social and emotional well-being and peer relations in early adolescence: gender-specific predictors of peer acceptance. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 39(11), 1330-1342.

Valenzuela, S., Park, N., & Kee, K. F. (2009). Is there social capital in a social network site?: facebook use and college students’ life satisfaction, trust, and participation. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 14(4), 875-901.

Valkenburg, P. M., & Peter, J. (2009). Social consequences of the internet for adolescents: a decade of research. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18(1), 1-5.


3 comments on “Social Media has Benefits for Youth

  1. Margaret says:

    I got my hopes up with social media thinking it might have saved us in the elections! It didn’t …


  2. […] Taken from a recent essay I wrote about 3 factors influencing youth and related to my previous post: Social Media has Benefits for Youth  […]


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