Social Media Safety & Peer Pressure: A Parent’s Guide

Social media gives teens a place to find people with similar interests and hobbies. It’s a place where adolescents can connect with their peers. The pandemic outbreak forced many teens to abandon in-person gatherings with their friends and find other ways to maintain friendships. Both social media and gaming became indispensable outlets for teens during stay-at-home orders and remote schooling, offering them a tool to connect with their peers safely.

Benefits of Social Media

If you are a parent of a teen who seems to spend endless hours scrolling on their phone or electronic device, it is helpful to understand the potential benefits of social media to maintain your sanity. Social media can strengthen friendships. Like spending late nights chatting on the phone as a teenager, social media offers a tool your child can use to communicate. Social media provides an outlet for expression and another place kids can find support. It also helps our children broaden their worldview and allows them to be agents of change in their community.

Perils of Social Media

While the benefits of social media abound, learning the facts about the risks of social media, including online bullying and peer pressure, will ensure your young person stays safe online.

  • Cyberbullying.
    • Bullying can take many forms but generally refers to ongoing mistreatment or harassment inflicted upon others. Cyberbullying is digital bullying and typically happens on social media, gaming platforms, and messaging platforms. Cyberbullying can cause depression, increase stress and anxiety, and decimate your teen’s self-esteem. One in three young people in 30 countries said they have been a victim of online bullying, according to a UNICEF poll of 170,000 young people aged 13 to 24. One in five reported skipping school due to cyberbullying and violence.
    • Parents can help their teens avoid being bullied online by advising them not to engage with bullies and keeping the lines of communication open to make them feel comfortable to tell you if they are being bullied.
  • Online Peer Pressure.
    • It is natural for teenagers to crave acceptance by their peers. Teens want to feel like they are part of the “in” crowd, and many will take risks online that they wouldn’t normally consider, such as taking part in an online prank, cyberbullying, or posting inappropriate content. They may also closely monitor the number of likes and comments on their posts, which can tank their self-esteem if they don’t feel like they measure up to their peers. To reduce the risk of online peer pressure and build up your child’s confidence, make sure you discuss clear guidelines to follow and consequences for inappropriate behavior online.
  • Underage Drinking
    • If you follow any celebrities on social media, you may see them posing with fancy cocktails or enjoying a night out partying. While little is known on how social media influences alcohol consumption, a study in the Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research journal revealed a connection between social media and underage drinking. Researchers also discovered a “statistically significant relationship between social media engagement and alcohol-related problems.”
    • Underage drinking can cause mental health problems and disrupt normal growth and sexual development. Underage drinking can also lead to memory problems and permanent changes in brain development. If your teen is on social media and exposed to a plethora of alcohol-filled posts from the adults they admire, parents need to start the conversation with their teens about the dangers of underage drinking. And if you are wondering what to do when you catch your teenager drinking, one of the go-to methods of discipline is taking away their phone privileges, including their access to social media.

What Else Can Parents Do to Keep Kids Safe?

In addition to keeping the lines of communication open with your teen, parents can take some simple steps to help keep their kids safe on social media.

  • Be a Social Media Friend – Follow your children on social media. Keep an eye on the accounts they follow to make sure they are making smart choices.
  • Limit Screen Time – If you’ve ever gone down a rabbit hole of cute dog videos or reading comments on the latest Nextdoor post, you know social media can be a time suck. Lay down guidelines of how much time your kids spend on devices when they are at home.
  • Protect Their Privacy – Teach your children to keep personal information private.
  • Follow Age Guidelines – Social media apps all have age guidelines to protect your adolescent. Make sure to enforce the age guidelines despite the pleas from your child.

Start the Conversation

One of the best ways to keep your kids safe on social media or prevent underage drinking is to keep the lines of communication open and start the conversation. Talk it out with your child to make sure they know all the facts. Visit Take the Pledge to stop underage drinking.