Not everyone is a fan of social media, but social media is a huge part of our lives. Many young people prefer online communication through texting, chatting, and direct messages compared to face-to-face communication. Online platforms, like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, etc., can be positive tools, providing a sense of belonging to a community of like interests and an added connection to friends. While online platforms have many positive tools–they can come at a cost. 

Online platforms often come with negative comments and messaging that can have a harsh effect on young people’s development, leaving you unprepared to support and comfort youth in response to these negative experiences. 

Supporting youth in the digital age can be a difficult job, and parents and caregivers are tasked with the majority of the work of comforting youth in response to negative experiences. Search Institute’s extensive work with families offers insights into how to help you build support and comfort for young people as they engage with social media. We also have some tips and strategies to combat the negative effects and promote positive outcomes.

Tips and Strategies

  1. Start a Conversation - Educate yourself and the young people you interact with about the potential risks from social media (e.g., cyberbullying, trolls, comparison, and post regret) and discuss potential solutions if any of these risks arise. 
  2. Get Involved - Social media is a tool that can yield great positive results. If you are a parent or caregiver, become social media “friends” with your child and share the space to create a more open dialogue about their interests and content viewing. 
  3. Step up to the Challenge! - It seems like there is a new dance, tasting, or activity challenge on social media that almost everyone participates in. This is a great opportunity for you to participate and complete a challenge together. Participating in the challenge can create lasting memories with your child through connecting, being involved, and showing interest in a shared activity.
  4. Don’t Criticize. Try to Understand. - Social media can be a place full of peer pressure for your child, and sometimes that can lead to unexpected behavior through comments and posts. This can be a pivotal misstep or victory - it may be easier to criticize or “parent” their behavior, but try to practice understanding and talk about their posts or comments. This can lead to deeper communication around a young person’s social media presence. 
  5. Don’t Tell Me, Show Me - Modeling is a big part of relationships with young people, and the same is true for social media presence. Ensure that you are leading by example when it comes to positive, respectful social media behavior. 
  6. Build Your Own Network - As a parent or caregiver, you are not alone in trying to support a young person in social media spaces. Try following other parents who discuss their experiences, you may learn some handy tips and tricks to add to your toolkit!


Perla Ramos Carranza, Robyn Douglas, and Stephen Gibson received Search Institute’s Summer Scholars Fellowships for 2022. The research fellowship focused on equity and inclusion in youth development with the goal of producing actionable research that utilizes Search Institute's existing data, and significantly contributes to advancing the science and practice of positive youth development. Robyn researched civic-oriented positive youth development among Black youth, Perla studied the role of families and community organizations in the positive development of Latino/a/x youth, and Stephen focused on Black parenting strategies in relation to the five elements of the Developmental Relationships Framework. Each fellow wrote a blog discussing their research findings.

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