Social Networking

Growing Up Online Toolkit for Service Providers

Social Networking is the act of sharing ideas, photos or videos, messaging, chatting, dating, emailing, and socializing in an online community using applications, websites, social media sites, and computer programs.

Online social networking sites (SNSs) are web-based services, or virtual communities, that allow individuals to engage with other people based on common interests. The most popular are Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, and Snapchat.

The scientific literature shows that persistent and recurrent use of SNSs, and a preoccupation with them, can result in clinically significant impairment or distress. The condition criteria in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) do not include general use of the internet or social media.

Key Learnings or Messages

  • Social Networking when enjoyed in moderation, can have positive impacts on the lives of children and youth. As part of normal child and youth development, many individuals experiment with social norms, and SNSs provide an avenue to do so.
  • Emerging research suggests the use of SNSs by children and youth, regardless of the platform, has the potential to cause harm. Health concerns associated with the use of digital technology include decreased activity, risk of obesity, and sleep challenges.
  • Excessive or inappropriate use of these sites can lead to a variety of negative consequences that imply a potential decrease in involvement in real-life communities, poor academic performance, as well as relationship problems.
  • Users may access SNSs to avoid stressors and unpleasant emotions.

Prevalence & Trends

Over the last 20 years, it’s estimated social network users grew by two billion worldwide. For information on social networking data, visit Statista. There are a number of topics that service providers need to be aware of when supporting children, youth, and families ranging from the age of the individual, gender, sex, or family background.

Continuum of Social Networking Use

Social Networking, when enjoyed in moderation, can have positive impacts on the lives of children and youth. Although there are clear benefits, children and youth who are involve in misuse, overuse, and unsupervised access to social networking sites may experience mental health concerns such as stress and loneliness, increased physiological arousal, decreased attention and emotional well-being, sleep disturbances, hyperactivity, aggression, antisocial or fearful behavior, and excessive use or technology addiction.

Intervention & Treatment

There are several prevention and intervention strategies that can be implemented in school settings, home, and health communities. Schools and communities play an important role in teaching children and youth about respectful communication, strategies for safe internet use, benefits and risks of social networking sites (SNSs), prevention of cyberbullying, and managing the use of SNSs responsibly.

Case Study

The clinical description portrayed is fictional. Any resemblance with real cases are purely coincidental.

Screening & Assessment Tools

This section offers a list of different types of measures that practitioners can use to assess the behaviours, feelings, and thoughts of children and youth who are experiencing negative effects from problematic use of social networking sites. The screening and assessment create the nature and severity of possible behavioral addiction, concurrent or mental issues. When results of screening indicate that there is a problematic use of social media, service providers must do the following to conduct a more comprehensive assessment that targets the issue:

  • A brief intervention to guide the client
  • A consultation and collaboration with an appropriate colleague
  • A coordinated referral to a concurrent capable addiction or mental health service

Service Provider Resources

This section contains resources, including tips and fact sheets, websites, videos, brochures, and academic articles helpful for service providers when supporting children, youth, and families facing challenges related to the problematic use of social networking sites.