Social media 101

Social media is a fast-moving domain. With Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, Tumblr just to name a few, sometimes it's hard to keep up to speed. Learn about how and why young people use social media and the possible risks and benefits.

This will help you to:

  • learn more about what social media is.
  • understand the various social media platforms.
  • understand why young people use social media.
  • learn about the benefits of social media
  • learn about the risks of social media and how to manage them.
Student smiles at laptop in classroom

What is social media?

Social media is any digital platform, website or app that lets people create and share content, and connect with each other. There are many different social media platforms that young people are using, but here are some of the most popular ones.


A free site that allows young people to share pictures, links, videos, and other content with their ‘friends’ who are other users that they have connected with. Between friends you can interact publicly through comments and liking shared content, or privately by private messaging.


A free image sharing service that is used mainly on mobile devices. It’s normal to ‘follow’ people you don't know on Instagram like Taylor Swift or the Kardashians, as well as pages of content you might be interested in like baking or anime.


A mobile phone messaging app that allows you to send videos or photos to one or more people at a time. The user decides how long the messages will be viewed for and which of the people they have connected with can view them.


A blogging website, where people publish and share their own content with people who follow them. It’s more common to connect with people you don’t know on Tumblr by following their blog and viewing their content.


A messaging app that lets you contact friends using internet data or wifi. It can be used without a sim card if connected to wifi. It’s a popular app as it allows you to send messages to a group of friends at one time.

Online games

Online games such as Pokemon Go or World of Warcraft are also forms of social media. These games have elements on social interaction within them.

For a more extensive list check out this quick guide to popular social media sites and apps.

Why do young people use social media?

Social media is a way for young people to hang out or stay in touch. It is an important part of socialising in a modern world. Some of the reasons that young people use social media are:

  • to build friendships and connect with new people, friends, acquaintances and family
  • to share their thoughts, pictures and accomplishments
  • to entertain themselves through the stream of updates
  • to relax
  • to pass time
  • to conveniently make plans with and talk to others
  • to ‘keep up with the Jones’’ and know what others are doing.

Read about young people’s perspectives of being online to learn more.

Understanding the benefits of social media

Using social media positively can benefit young people in a range of ways. Being socially connected is important to a young person’s development. Understanding the benefits of social media will help you to keep up with the young people you work with.

Managing the risks of social media

Like with any form of social engagement, social media comes with risks. Although there are ways that you can help the young people you work with manage those risks.

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