New Report Issued on Impact of Teen Social Media Use

Guidelines advise parents to become acquainted with social media, provide active supervision

MONDAY, March 28 (HealthDay News) -- Using social media, such as Facebook and MySpace, is among the most common activities for children and adolescents today, and pediatricians are encouraged to help parents understand and address both the positive and negative effects, according to an American Academy of Pediatrics report published online March 28 in Pediatrics.

Gwenn Schurgin O'Keefe, M.D., and colleagues on the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications and Media, reviewed the latest research and offered guidelines for pediatricians, parents, and youth for safely and successfully navigating the world of social media.

The researchers highlight the dramatic increase in use of social media by preadolescents and adolescents. According to a recent poll, 22 percent of teens log onto social media sites more than 10 times per day, and over half log on more than once. Although social media has the potential to enhance communication, social connection, and technical skills, it also puts children and adolescents at risk for cyber-bullying, privacy infringement, and "sexting," which is increased by their limited capacity for self-regulation and their susceptibility to peer pressure. Pediatricians can assist parents by suggesting that they talk to their children about their online use, learn about and become involved with the technologies their children use, and discuss the importance of active supervision.

"A large part of this generation's social and emotional development is occurring while on the Internet and on cell phones," the authors write. "Pediatricians are in a unique position to educate families about both the complexities of the digital world and the challenging social and health issues that online youth experience."

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