Social Media and Self-Esteem

The creation of social media sites and applications has changed the ways in which people interact, connect, and share with one another. Perhaps children and adolescents are the most affected by these technological advancements. Teens and pre-teens are among the highest consumers of social media. As the number of social media sites and apps increases, children and adolescents increase their usage (Anderson, 2018). So, questions arise regarding social media usage such as can too much time spent on social media impact the way children see themselves?  Can social media usage affect a youth’s self-esteem?

Social media can be positive and negative. It’s positive for children to use social media as this platform allows them to share interests or posts about their favorite sports, celebrities, artists, and talents with a diverse group of like-minded individuals. However, social media can be negative if children are using social media as a measure of their likability or popularity (Koutamanis, 2015). Parents need to remember that even though technologies are quickly changing, the developmental needs of children remain the same (Orth, 2018).

Research has demonstrated an individual’s ability to verbalize a sense of his or her overall worth as a person emerges around the age of 8, which suggests that this time period is very crucial in the development of self-esteem (Orth, 2018). During this stage, children begin to discover their abilities and characteristics and begin their evolution into being known by and identifying with what they have discovered about themselves. Children in mid to late childhood (i.e., ages 8 to 10 years old) are able to understand that success in domains of personal importance promotes high self-esteem, whereas failure in these domains undermines their sense of competence and takes a toll on self-esteem (Orth, 2018).

As children emerge into late childhood and early adolescence, parental approval continues to affect self-esteem, but it is not as influential as peer approval (Erol, 2011).

During adolescence (i.e., ages 11-19 years old), youth are undergoing the process of identity development, and self-esteem is an important part of this development. During this developmental period, adolescents’ self-esteem is likely to be affected by the feedback they receive online through social media sites (Burrows, 2017). Teens describe social media platforms as a key tool for connecting and maintaining relationships, being creative, and learning more about other cultures and diverse peoples. Clearly, in these ways, social media usage can be a positive experience; however, youth are also exposed to the negative aspects of social media use, such as drama and bullying or feeling pressure to present themselves in a certain way (Anderson, 2018). Furthermore, adolescents tend to over interpret or misjudge the extent to which others are evaluating them, which can lead to a preoccupation with how they look in the eyes of others (Valkenburg, 2016). Positive feedback received online has been shown to enhance self-esteem, and negative feedback has been shown to have the reverse effect (Valkenburg, 2017).

Positive impacts on self-esteem can occur through interactions via social media if adolescents feel a sense of connectedness and support, but some experiences online may have a negative impact on self-esteem. The negative impact is not always caused by cyberbullying or a negative comment. When a child does not receive the expected or desired feedback or feels a sense of pressure to “perform” or post content, the right content, for “friends,” this pressure or stress can cause anxiety and will probably negatively affect a child’s self-esteem.

Today, parents must find a balance between mitigating the negative risks to their adolescent’s self-esteem that can happen when engaging in social media and allowing their youth to engage on social platforms. Realizing and enforcing this balance can lead to arguments or a parent’s guilt about his or her child being the outcast or “left behind” socially because he or she is not allowed to be on social media constantly.

Awareness of how much time your child spends on social media and the level of importance he or she places on social media interactions can be a telling factor into how these interactions are affecting your child’s self-esteem (Brewer, 2015). Social media’s negative effects on children may promote unhealthy behaviors like becoming isolated or irritable or experiencing a drop in grades or loss of interest in activities (Verduyn, 2017). To address these adverse effects and help their child develop social skills, parents could foster a sense of purpose through encouraging their child to engage in volunteering, sports, creative arts, clubs, or other in-person activities.

Parents are their children’s first teachers and understanding how to promote your child’s positive online interactions and build your child’s self-esteem can be done by modeling those behaviors. For example, parents may want to carefully consider if they want to post pictures of their child on social media and may want to think about the content of the photos. A “cute” picture of your child taking a bath may be embarrassing to your child. Model ethical behavior, ask permission from your children before posting online pictures or activities that involve them, and teach your children to respect the privacy of others.


Anderson, M., & Jiang, J. (2018). Teens, social media & technology 2018. Pew Research.

Brewer, G., & Kerslake, J. (2015). Cyberbullying, self-esteem, empathy and loneliness. Computers in Human Behavior,48, 255–260.

Burrows, A.L., & Rainone, N. (2017). How many likes did I get? Purpose moderate’s links between positive social media feedback and self-esteem. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology,69, 232–236.

Erol, R. Y., & Orth, U. (2011). Self-esteem development from age 14 to 30 years: A longitudinal study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101(3),607–619.

Koutamanis, M., Voosen, H. G., & Valkenburg, P. (2015). Adolescents’ comments in social media: Why do adolescents receive negative feedback and who is most at risk? Computers in Human Behavior, 53, 486–494.

Orth, U., Erol Y., & Luciano, C. (2018). Development of self-esteem from age 4 to 94 years: A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Psychological Bulletin, 144, 1045-1080.

Valkenburg, M., Koutamanis, M., & Vossen, H.G. (2017). The concurrent and longitudinal relationship between adolescents’ use of social network sites and their social self-esteem. Computers in Human Behavior,76, 35–41.

Valkenburg, M., Peter, J., & Walther, J. B. (2016). Media effects: Theory and research. Annual Review of Psychology,67, 315–338.

Verduyn, P., Ybarry, O., Résibois, M., Jonides, J., & Kross, E. (2017). Do social network sites enhance or undermine subjective well-being? A critical review. Social Issues and Policy Review,11(1), 274–302.



Volunteering as a Family: Finding Ways to Give Back

Volunteering as a family is a concrete way to apply and demonstrate shared values and beliefs while making a positive impact on your world (Ameri Corps, 2020). Families who volunteer have the unique experience of working together toward a shared goal, most often for the benefit of others. Quality time spent together while volunteering can promote openness and understanding between parents and children and may serve as a catalyst for meaningful conversations. Volunteering can also draw family members closer together, forge new bonds through shared experiences outside of the normal day-to-day routines (American Red Cross, 2020), and show children the importance of helping others. In addition, new friendships and interests may form through volunteer efforts that can stay with the family for a long time.

Benefits to families who volunteer can include the following:

  • Adults and children share the same goal and a common purpose.
  • Children gain opportunities to share their time and talents.
  • Children learn self-confidence and acquire new skills.
  • Family members encounter and learn about people from different cultures and economic backgrounds and, consequently, grow as human beings.
  • Family members see one another with a fresh perspective.
  • Family members communicate with each other more effectively and are  and more supportive of one another.
  • Volunteer experiences carry over into other parts of their lives such as dinner table discussions.
  • Children learn the lifelong lesson that by giving to others they can put their own problems in perspective.

During this time of a global pandemic, it may take a little creativity to find ways to volunteer and give back to the community. Below is a list of some safe ways to volunteer during the COVID-19 pandemic (Wright, 2020).

  • Use your crafting skills to provide comfort to shelter pets.
  • Lift the spirits of a child with cancer by sending an e-card.
  • Help people in need by crocheting garments. Warm Up America! is a nonprofit that has been helping people in need stay warm since 1992.
  • Help a family in need buy holiday gifts for their children.
  • Record bird sightings, whether you see them at a park, in your own backyard, or somewhere else, to benefit science and conservation. You can contribute to  projects by submitting your own bird sightings here (Hatem, 2020).
  • Support our troops: Kids can write a letter or draw a picture to send to our Service members overseas or in the United States through A Million Thanks or Operation Stars and Stripes.
  • Walk dogs, collect mail, shovel snow, or rake leaves for someone in your neighborhood who needs the help.
  • Earn a President’s Volunteer Service Award for your volunteer work. People of all ages can sign up, track their hours, and search for volunteer opportunities through United We Serve.
  • Kitchen Table Project: Sometimes it’s not what you cook but how you present it. Decorate paper lunch bags and drop them off at your local Meals on Wheels (Feeding America, 2020).


American Red Cross. (2020). Become a volunteer. Get Help.

AmeriCorps. (2020). 10 ways to safely help your community during covid-19. Serve your community.

Feeding America. (2020). How to volunteer during covid-19. Take Action.

Hatem, A. (2020, March 5). How your family can volunteer during the pandemic. Giving Back.

Wright, B. (2020, April 13). You’re your family can volunteer during the covid-19 crisis. Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

National Children’s Health Month: 5210

October is National Children’s Health Month. Children learn about and model health behaviors from their families and their environments. The 5-2-1-0 health messaging campaign is a way to build and promote lifelong healthy habits for children at home and in the community.

Do you know the 5-2-1-0 message?

The 5-2-1-0 message recommends four healthy behaviors children should achieve each day:

5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables

5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables provide many nutrients and water without a lot of calories. Fruits and vegetables also contain fiber and a variety of phytochemicals that help prevent cancer, heart problems, and other diseases. Young children often reject new foods at first – it may take several exposures to a new food before they accept it. Keep trying!

2 or fewer hours of screen time

2 or fewer hours of screen time

Review guidelines on parenting strategies to ensure quality screen time (AAP, 2015)

Screen time is free time that is spent in front of screens like televisions, video games, smart phones, and computers. It is possible to get enough physical activity and still engage in an unhealthy amount of screen time, so encourage your family to find other fun ways to spend their free time!

1 or more hours of physical activity

1 or more hours of physical activity

Moving your body is a great way to burn calories, improve your mood, boost your energy, prevent cancer and cardiovascular diseases, and help you sleep better at night, and it can be a lot of fun! Look for activities your family can enjoy together, so everyone can reap the benefits and help keep one another on track!

0 sweetened beverages

0 sweetened beverages

It is important to drink fluids to stay healthy, but sweetened beverages add extra sugar and calories to one’s diet. Watch out for drinks with the following ingredients: sugar, honey, sweetener, syrup (e.g., corn syrup, brown rice syrup), and/or ingredients ending in “ose” (e.g., glucose, dextrose).

The 5-2-1-0 behaviors are evidence-informed and are recommended by groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Association for Sport and Physical Activity. All children, no matter their size, benefit from eating adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables, monitoring and limiting their screen time, being physically active, and avoiding sweetened beverages. Visit to access free tools and tips on how to help you enhance your child’s health and even start a community-wide campaign!

Additional Resources

American Academy of Pediatrics. (2015). Media and children communication [Toolkit]. Healthy Children.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, October 1). Children’s health month October 2020: Leading the way towards safe, healthy, and protective environments where children live, play, and learn! Your health your environment blog.


Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness. (n.d). 5210 helping families lead healthier lives.

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