Skip to Main navigation Skip to Left navigation Skip to Main content Skip to Footer

University of Minnesota Extension

Extension > Family > Families with Teens > Parent Resources > LOL, IDK, OMG: Teens and social media platforms

Print Icon Email Icon Share Icon

Parent Resources

LOL, IDK, OMG: Teens and social media platforms

This fact sheet is part of the Teen talk: A survival guide for parents of teenagers series.

Pooja Brar, Doctoral Candidate — Family Social Science
Jodi Dworkin, Extension Specialist and Professor — Family Social Science
Colleen Gengler, Extension Educator, emerita — Family Development

November 2017

kids on devices

For teens, social media platforms are an everyday part of life. Parents may benefit from learning more about these platforms and the ways they influence the lives of their teens. By being informed, parents can make the best decisions about monitoring their teens’ social media use and equipping them with skills to navigate these platforms with care.

Popular Social Media Platforms

The 2015 Pew Research Center’s Teen Relationship Study reveals that seven out of ten teens use more than one social media platform. In addition to popular sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat, there are hundreds of others that appeal to specific groups or are used in other parts of the world, like LinkedIn, YouTube, WhatsApp, Reddit, and Pinterest.

In the United States, Facebook is still the most popular social media platform with seven out of ten 13 to 17 year olds using it. Instagram is second most popular, used by 51 percent of teens, and Snapchat is third, with 41 percent of teens using it.

Mobile devices like smartphones, laptops, and tablets make the internet and social media easily accessible to teens.

Why Are Teens Attracted to Social Media?

Teens’ developmental needs match well with what social media has to offer: developing friendships, figuring out their identities, and establishing social status by being “in the know.” For example, it is typical for teens to try on different identities based on pop culture. According to danah boyd, a technology and social media scholar, curating an online persona can be a way to try on an identity, test an image, and get feedback from others.

Maintaining existing friendships is reported as one of the most common reasons for using social media. As today’s teens grow up, they view social media as an online place to “hang out” and connect with friends around mutual interests.

Teens are not using social media in isolation. Consider the world in which today’s teens are growing up. Entertainment, sports, and political celebrities live out their lives in the focus of public attention. Ordinary people become celebrities through reality shows on television or a viral social media post. Schools, universities, news outlets, and companies all have presences on social media. With so many people and organizations using social media, teens make consider accessing social media a necessity to stay informed.

When Social Media is Helpful

Teens are growing up with and making social media an integral part of their lives. Engagement with social media might lead teens to:

In addition, researchers in Australia found that teens with disabilities may experience greater ease in socializing on social media versus in-person.

When Social Media is Harmful

The Center for on Media and Child Health notes that frequent social media use among teens has been linked to poor academic performance and other potential negative consequences:

What Parents Can Do

Parents and caregivers need to know more about how social media works and how their teens are using them. The best way to learn is to set up your own profile. Most social media platforms have an age requirement of 13 before teens are allowed to create their own profiles. When your teen creates a personal profile, make sure you are on the same platform so you can monitor his or her activities.

Here are more tips:


boyd, d. (2007). Why youth (heart) social network sites: The role of networked publics in teenage social life

Center on Media and Child Health. (2017). Social Media.

Lenhart, A. (2015, April 9). Teens, social media & technology overview 2015.

Raghavendra, P., Newman, L., Grace, E., & Wood, D. (2013). ‘I could never do that before’: effectiveness of a tailored internet support intervention to increase the social participation of youth with disabilities. Child: care, health and development, 39(4), 552-561.

Related resources

What’s Normal for Teen development? — Learn about the biological, physical, social, and emotional changes that are occurring for teens and get tips for what parents can do. Part of the Teen Talk: A Survival Guide for Parents of Teens series.

Identity: Figuring Out Who You Are — Understand how teens work out who they are by trying on new identities through experimentation with different appearances or new interests. Part of the Teen Talk: A Survival Guide for Parents of Teens series.

Bullying: A big problem with big consequences — Find out what the research says about bullying, and what you can do if your teen is a victim of a bully. Part of the Teen talk: A survival guide for parents of teenagers series.  English | español

The Teen Years ExplainedClea McNeely, PhD and Jayne Blanchard — This e-book can help both teens and adults to understand developmental changes and tips for how to apply this knowledge to your everyday life.
  • © Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved.
  • The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Privacy