Pediatricians are adding another topic to their list of
questions for visits with school-aged and adolescent patients: Are you
on Facebook? Recognizing the increasing importance of all types of
media in their young patients’ lives, pediatricians often hear from
parents who are concerned about their children’s engagement with social
To help address
the many effects—both positive and negative—that social media use has on
youth and families, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued
a new clinical report, “The Impact of Social Media Use on Children, Adolescents and Families” in the April issue of Pediatrics
(published online March 28). The report offers background on the
latest research in this area, and recommendations on how
pediatricians, parents and youth can successfully navigate this new
mode of communication.
“For some teens
and tweens, social media is the primary way they interact socially,
rather than at the mall or a friend’s house,” said Gwenn O’Keeffe, MD,
FAAP, co-author of the clinical report. “A large part of this
generation’s social and emotional development is occurring while on
the Internet and on cell phones. Parents need to understand these
technologies so they can relate to their children’s online world – and
comfortably parent in that world.” See Dr. O'Keefe discussing social media at the following links:
According to a
Common Sense Media poll from August 2009, 22 percent of teenagers log on
to their favorite social media site more than 10 times a day, and
more than half of adolescents log on to a social media site more than
once a day. Seventy-five percent of teens now own cell phones, and 25
percent use them for social media, 54 percent for texting, and 24
percent for instant messaging.
The new AAP
guidelines include recommendations for pediatricians to help families
navigate the social media landscape, including:
parents to talk to children and adolescents about their online use and
the specific issues that today’s online kids face, such as
cyberbullying, sexting, and difficulty managing their time.
parents to work on their own “participation gap” in their homes by
becoming better educated about the many technologies their children
Discuss with families the need for a family online-use plan, with an emphasis on citizenship and healthy behavior.
with parents the importance of supervising online activities via active
participation and communication, not just via monitoring software.
The AAP report
outlines the positive effects of social media. Engagement in social
media and online communities can enhance communication, facilitate
social interaction and help develop technical skills. They can help
tweens and teens discover opportunities to engage in the community by
volunteering, and can help youth shape their sense of identity. These
tools also can be useful adjuncts to—and in some cases are
replacing—traditional learning methods in the classroom.
tweens and teens have a limited capacity for self-regulation and are
susceptible to peer pressure, they are at some risk as they engage in
and experiment with social media, according to the report. They can
find themselves on sites and in situations that are not
age-appropriate, and research suggests that the content of some social
media sites can influence youth to engage in risky behaviors. In
addition, social media provides venues for cyberbullying and sexting,
among other dangers. Youth who are more at-risk offline tend to also
be more at-risk online.
people find the lure of social media difficult to resist, which can
interfere with homework, sleep and physical activity,” Dr. O’Keeffe
said. “Parents need to understand how their child is using social
media so that they can set appropriate limits.”
should educate their children about the ways social media sites can
capture personal information about users, Dr. O’Keeffe said. Young
people can harm their reputations and safety by posting personal and
inappropriate information. And information about sites they visit may
be captured and used to target them with advertising.
The report includes a link to parenting tips, “Talking to Kids and Teens About Social Media and Sexting”.
The AAP offers additional resources about online safety for children
and teens, including its Internet Safety Site at http://safetynet.aap.org and www.healthychildren.org.
The American Academy of
Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians,
pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists
dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children,
adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org.