Understanding children and adolescent social media usage

Children and adolescents are deeply influenced by their interactions on social networks. A recent study highlights how these platforms shape their values, interests, and aspirations, from self-reflection to exploring career options and following favourite public figures. However, clear guidelines for social media usage must be set amidst this digital immersion. Engaging children in discussions about online safety and spending quality time with them helps them to navigate social networks responsibly and effectively. 

Date 2024-05-10 Author Romanian Safer Internet Centre Section awareness Topic media literacy/education Audience parents and carers
Girl holding a phone with blue light

Most children say that their values or interests are built from the content they encounter on social networks. According to recent findings,57 per cent acknowledged that social media networks help them see their flaws. While the majority affirms that the internet reinforces their existing career aspirations, it is noteworthy that half also explore alternative options online. 

Furthermore, 1 in 2 children specifically mentions following favourite public figures on social networks, indicating the considerable influence these creators hold among children. 43 per cent of children attribute a prominent level of influence to the internet in shaping their future decisions, while 40 per cent consider it to have a medium impact.  

For further insights, refer to the study “The use of social media networks by children and adolescents”. 

Proactive measures to find balance

Considering the above points, finding a balance between screen time and engaging in physical activities is crucial. This balance is especially important in children and adolescents, as they are in a crucial stage of development.

  • Establish clear limits on social media usage to avoid dependency and social isolation.  
  • Encourage adherence to social media platform rules, often setting a minimum use age. Children and young adults should be of an appropriate age to join these platforms and understand the responsibilities involved, depending on the case. The recommended minimum age for children to use social platforms is 13 years old. This is a common rule for most popular platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and TikTok. Additionally, special platforms are designed for younger children, such as YouTube Kids, which are intended to be safer and provide age-appropriate content.  
  • Maintain open communication with children regarding their interests and activities on social networks. Personal involvement and active engagement in discussions of interest to them contribute to developing authentic, trusting relationships.  
  • Spend quality time together as frequently as possible, engaging in activities that fulfil the needs for connection, safety, and communication necessary for healthy development.  
  • Involve children in activities related to online safety to help them understand the consequences of their actions. Remember that each child is different, and approaches may be needed based on age, maturity, and behaviour. They need to learn to be responsible and aware of their impact on themselves and others online.  

In embracing these proactive measures, children and young people will be empowered with the tools to navigate the digital landscape safely and responsibly. 

Find more information about the work of the Romanian Safer Internet Centre, including their awareness raising, helpline, hotline, and youth participation services, or find similar information for other Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.   

Related news