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The Good, the Bad, and the Balance

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Parents and educators remain concerned about the impact of social media. Those concerns have only  increased as students spend more time online.

Problems related to social media include bullying, online predators, and increased risk of depression. But there are also benefits. Social media can help students create and strengthen friendships. 

Warning Signs of Violence in Social Media

Students learn the warning signs of violence in our proven prevention programs. Our experts have also identified signs in social media and other online activities. These include: 

  • Missing out on IRL (in real life) and only socializing online.
  • Sharing violent conspiracy theories or desire for societal collapse and chaos.
  • Posting antisemitic, sexist, racist or other discriminatory statements, memes or “jokes”. 
  • Continually turning to non-expert, non-validated online sources for information.

You can download, read and share the full guide, Warning Signs of Violence in Youth Internet Use.  

A Student Speaks Out About Social Media

Lena Kalandjian, an alumna of our Youth Advisory Board, noted the top student concern is making social comparisons. This can lead to increased anxiety and depression. 

“The problem is that most of what you see on social media is not real,” she noted. “People always put the best of themselves on social media. When we start comparing ourselves, we can often feel inferior. This impacts the development of our identity and self-esteem. Several studies link social media use with depression and lower self-esteem because we believe others are happier and living better lives.”

Lena conducted an informal survey of her classmates. She found: 

  • 93% of students felt worse about themselves after viewing social media.
  • 73% reported time spent on social media could be more productive if used on other activities.

Advice from a Parent and Community Leader

Sharmaine Brown, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Jared’s Heart of Success, said her biggest concerns surrounding social media as a parent is cyberbullying and online predators. Another concern is spending so much time on social media that things like homework and chores often go undone. 

“My advice to parents is: have that important conversation with your child. Ask them what they’re using and show you the platforms. Become familiar with them and routinely monitor your child’s online activity.”

She stressed parents need to talk with their children about unrealistic images on social media. Sharmaine also shared a reminder that using devices comes with the responsibility of using them properly.

Deeper Dive on the Issues

The National Center for School Safety hosted a series of workshops with Sandy Hook Promise about student mental health. Learn more about how parents and educators can help overcome challenges. 

You may also want to read a recent research study on the issue, co-authored by Sandy Hook Promise board member, Dr. Jillian Peterson. In How Mass Public Shooters Use Social Media: Exploring Themes and Future Directions, Dr. Peterson and her co-authors “provide insight into commonalities among mass shooters in terms of their social media usage.” Their findings may help innovate new prevention methods.