Friday, April 1, 2011

Social Media Impact- from Disney to Facebook

The Journal of Pediatrics recently published a timely clinical report—The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families. Kids are entering social media at earlier ages, logging on to Disney websites such as Club Penguin. Soon they progress to websites intended for more mature audiences, such as Facebook and Youtube. Once again, we need to be aware of a desensitization process- this time, in the parents! We are used to our kids being ON the computer, and may not be watching closely enough as they evolve beyond cartoons characters. The minimum age on Facebook is 13, but that doesn't mean all teens should have free rein on FB without supervision.

The report noted that up to 20% of teens log on to their favorite social media site 10 times per day. Most teens have smart phones that allow them constant access. Ever notice how few teens use their make PHONE CALLS? Cell phones are cameras and instruments to TEXT or IM (instant message). The significance is that a good chunk of teens emotional and social development is occurring through these screen communications.

There are absolute advantages to the social media for youth, including anonymous access to health education that they might not otherwise seek- depression, anxiety, and sexually transmitted disease, for example. This report did not offer shocking news, but is an excellent reminder for parents to stop, look and listen to our kids' social media. And I mean that- go on the sites, read what your child and their friends are saying, and follow up with real live conversation with your kids. BTW, this is a great time to remind everyone that the total recommended daily screen time (ALL screens, big and small) is LESS THAN 2 HOURS, and yet most youth are surpassing 6 or more hours.

BOTTOM LINE: Recognize the role social media is playing in your child's development, and play an active role in setting time and boundary (privacy setting) limits.

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