Social media, self-esteem and young people

Social media, self-esteem and young people

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Increasing reports of the negative impact of social media on young people’s self-esteem cannot be ignored, but are they true?

A number of popular social media platforms with different functions are now used by young people in Ireland. We are connected more than ever before and that connectivity causes concern for some parents.

Young people’s use of technology

Technology, as they say, is neutral, these are really tools to enable communication and entertainment.

The evidence to support the negative impact on young people’s mental health seems to come in thick and fast. Though there is plenty of evidence to say the contrary.

Social media allows people to connect with like-minded people, no matter where they are. This can be of great comfort and an outlet for young people. It can also allow a platform for self-expression.

Unfortunately, it has also become a place where young people can continuously compare themselves against a benchmark. Some young people can get caught in the trap of gaining their self-worth from a numbers game of likes, shares and follows.


Social media can be seen as a race or a competition.

Explore what’s real

Social media used to be seen as an unfiltered view into celebrities lives. This is no longer the case.

It’s a highly curated, selective lens on parts that people want you to see. People select the very best parts of their complicated lives, modifying and applying filters to present their best selves.

It’s a good idea to remind young people that their self-worth should not be measured by numbers on social media. Explore this with them and where they should feel validation from, by helping them work out their strengths. Get them to focus on the positive friendships and relationships that they have.

Social media can be seen as a race or a competition. Just because a person has more likes on their post does not mean their contribution is better or more interesting than a peer’s.

Discuss the ‘fake news’ that can be social media. An Instagram post is only one tiny (filtered) moment from a person’s day. It does not depict the full story.

Encourage regulation

This is about taking breaks from screen time, and switching off fully. It’s also about unfriending, unfollowing or blocking people who make them feel bad about themselves. This can be a good way to get your young person to stop comparing themselves to others and take control of areas of their lives that they can.

Positive role models online

Seek out positive role models online for them to follow. There are plenty of examples of people sharing content that’s informative, positive and helpful. Make sure their feeds have this type of content coming in.

Moderation, moderation, moderation

It is the most boring advice. Social media, gaming, or communication with friends online can be great. But not at the expense of face to face interactions that nurture meaningful friendships and relationships.

Don’t limit this to peers. Include family, your own friends, and other people who can have a positive impact on your child

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