How Does The Internet Affect Kids & Teenagers?

Words by
Jackie Baucom

FEB 16, 2024

How Does The Internet Affect Kids & Teenagers?

Welcome to the digital playground where memes are the new monkey bars, and social media serves as the jungle gym of modern childhood! In this virtual jungle, the internet swings both ways, offering endless opportunities for enrichment and treacherous pitfalls for young adventurers.

As of 2021, over 97% of children over age 3 have consistent internet access in their home. Elementary schools assign virtual homework, classes can be online, and your child may learn to type before learning cursive. 

How the Internet Affects Kids’ Social and Emotional Well-Being

In today’s digital age, the internet plays a crucial role in shaping the lives of kids and teenagers. While the web offers a wealth of knowledge and opportunities to connect with others, it also presents a downside that parents shouldn’t ignore. 

97% of children over age 3 have consistent internet access in their home.

—National Center for Education Statistics

While the internet allows your child to learn new information and skills, unchecked internet access can end up doing more harm than good. 

For parents and educators, understanding how internet access impacts development is necessary. As the boundaries between the virtual and real worlds blur, how do we navigate the effects of social media, entertainment sites, gaming platforms, and educational resources on our children’s development? 

This is the question we must explore as the digital revolution shapes our youth’s future.

How the Internet Affects Kids’ Social and Emotional Well-Being

Today, the internet plays a crucial role in shaping the lives of kids and teenagers. While the web offers a wealth of knowledge and opportunities to connect with others, it also presents a downside that parents shouldn’t ignore.

Ways the Internet Positively Impacts Children’s Social and Emotional Health

Online interactions provide children with opportunities for social connection that were previously impossible. Children can remain connected with friends and family worldwide using services like video chat and other messaging systems as long as they’re under close parental supervision.

This can be especially helpful for homeschooled children or kids who have recently moved to a new area and want to keep in touch with old friends.  

For children in rural areas, kids with unique interests, and children with disabilities, accessing the internet allows them to connect more easily with people who can relate to their unique hobbies, interests, and experiences. For example, if your child is a bug enthusiast, together, you can find videos, games, and blogs about their favorite insects.

mom with her teen daughter with downes syndrome

When used with a parent’s guidance, the internet can fuel your child’s curiosity and nourish their mind. However, too much time online can backfire.

The Cons of Internet Usage for Kids’ Social and Emotional Health

The internet, while a hub of information and connectivity, poses significant challenges to children’s social and emotional health. One major concern is the impact of social media and online interactions on self-esteem and body image.

Comparison drains self-esteem

Children, particularly in their formative years, are highly susceptible to social conformity and comparison pressures. With their emphasis on likes, shares, and comments, social media platforms can create an environment where children measure their worth and popularity against unrealistic standards often portrayed online. 

This constant comparison can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. In severe cases, social media usage can contribute to mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and eating disorders.


Another critical aspect of internet usage affecting children’s emotional well-being is the risk of cyberbullying. Unlike traditional bullying, cyberbullying can occur at any time and in a much more public manner, leaving the victim feeling helpless and exposed. The anonymity and distance provided by digital platforms can embolden bullies to be more aggressive and hurtful than they might be in person. 

Victims of cyberbullying often experience a range of negative emotions, including fear, embarrassment, loneliness, and a decreased sense of safety. These experiences can hinder the development of healthy social skills, lead to social withdrawal, and impact academic performance. 

Moreover, the permanence and public nature of online interactions mean that hurtful comments or images can have a long-lasting impact on a child’s emotional health. 

How the Internet Affects Academic Performance

The internet has revolutionized the way we learn and access information. For children, what was once a trip to the library or a chat with a teacher can now turn into a quick Google search or an online tutorial.

While the internet has undoubtedly made information more readily available, it has also raised concerns about its effects on academic performance. Critics argue that the internet has decreased critical thinking and analytical skills while promoting a culture of instant gratification.

Positive Impacts of the Internet on Academic Performance for Kids

One of the main advantages is that the internet provides kids with endless educational resources, such as online encyclopedias, educational games, apps, and learning tools that can enhance their knowledge and skills.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, children were able to continue their education through virtual classrooms and educational apps. The internet helped children access informative materials from the comforts of their homes, enabling them to learn and grow academically. 

Students are also able to find resources that enrich their learning outside of school online, helping them get a more well-rounded education. 

teen boy doing homework on his laptop

Additionally, the internet allows kids to connect and communicate with people worldwide, breaking down cultural barriers and expanding their world perspectives. It also encourages creativity and innovation, as children can access various platforms to express their ideas and talents. 

While internet safety is essential, it is clear that the benefits of internet usage for kids are numerous and can significantly contribute to their personal and academic growth.

Ultimately, though, the impact of the internet on academic performance varies from child to child and requires careful consideration of the benefits and drawbacks of its use.

Setbacks of the Internet when it Comes to Academic Performance

Though the internet makes an excellent supplement to traditional education, it can also prevent your child from reaching their full potential.

The ease of access to information can often lead to superficial learning and a lack of critical thinking skills. The internet provides quick answers to almost any question, which can discourage children from engaging in deep research, problem-solving, and developing research capabilities.

In the long term, this reliance on easy-to-find answers can hinder a child’s ability to engage with more complex academic material, prepare for higher education, or adapt to evolving learning environments.

Internet Addiction

Internet addiction in teens is a growing concern, often characterized by excessive and compulsive use of digital devices to the point where it interferes with daily life. This addiction can happen for various reasons, including instant gratification, and escaping from real-world problems. 

With their algorithms designed to keep users online for as long as possible, social media platforms can create a powerful lure, especially for teens seeking social acceptance and connection. 

cell phone with chord wrapped around wrists like handcuffs

The addictive nature of online games, with their reward systems and immersive experiences, also plays a significant role. For some teens, the virtual world becomes a refuge from stress, loneliness, or social anxiety, leading to an unhealthy dependence.

Recognizing internet addiction

Spotting internet addiction in teens involves a variety of indicators, including an increase of time spent online, often at the expense of sleep, physical activities, and face-to-face interactions, emotional disturbances, like irritability or anxiety when unable to access the internet, neglect of personal responsibilities, a decline in academic performance. 

Preventing internet addiction involves setting boundaries and promoting a healthy balance. Parents and caregivers can establish limits on screen time, encourage participation in offline activities, and foster open communication about internet use. 

Educating teens about the potential risks of excessive internet usage and the importance of a balanced lifestyle is also crucial. In some cases, professional help may be necessary to address underlying issues contributing to the addiction.

Tech and Apps That Limit Internet Use for Kids

It’s important that your children learn how to use devices such as phones and computers so they’re familiar with the tech in the future. 

But how do you draw boundaries and ensure your child reaps the benefits of the internet without experiencing the drawbacks? 

In response to growing concerns about internet overuse among children, a variety of technological solutions and applications have been developed to help limit and monitor their online activity.

A number of apps exist that provide parental controls, including tracking the time spent on different apps or websites, setting schedules for internet access, and blocking harmful content. Another popular tool, Google Family Link, enables parents to supervise their child’s Google account, limit screen time, manage app downloads, and view activity reports. 

gabb phone

An alternative to adding safety software to devices made for adults is to buy devices specifically made to protect children. Gabb crafts smartphones just for kids — without social media apps, an internet browser, or access to unrestricted app stores.  

Gabb’s devices and phone plans allow parents to tailor their child or teen’s tech journey. In addition to our own Gabb apps like Gabb Messenger and Gabb Music, our more flexible devices allow parents to enable third-party apps that have been reviewed by Gabb. Parents can review all the features of the app to weigh out whether their child is ready for it, then enable it for download on their child’s Gabb device through a parent portal on their own device.

The key to navigating the digital realm lies in striking a balance, utilizing kid-safe devices, and open dialogue to ensure that the internet becomes a tool for positive growth and learning rather than a source of harm.

What do you think? What worries you most about the internet for your kids? What are the greatest benefits you’ve seen for your kids? Let us know in the comments below.


  • Last Step in "Tech in Steps" (How to Transition Your Teen to a Smartphone) on Apr 16, 2024 11:21 AM

    […] essential skill, especially for the younger generation. While concerns about the adverse effects of excessive screen time and digital dependence persist, it’s important to foster a healthy relationship between adolescents and technology to […]

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