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Health Advisory on Social Media Use in Adolescents

Teen texting on cell phone at home laying at bed.

As I have written in the past, we acknowledge that social media has had an increasing impact on our teenagers. It is used for connection, advertising, even for self-image and also bullying.

The American Psychological Association has just published on their website the downloadable results of some of the most prominent research on this volatile topic. It is extensive but I think these 10 recommendations based on the research and conclusions cover some of the major concerns and options for parents and caregivers to help protect our adolescents from the harmful effects of social media. Here are the brief recommendations:

  1. Youth using social media should be encouraged to use functions that create opportunities for social support, online companionship, and emotional intimacy that can promote healthy socialization.
  2. Social media use, functionality, and permissions/consenting should be tailored to youths’ developmental capabilities; designs created for adults may not be appropriate for children.
  3. In early adolescence (i.e., typically 10–14 years), adult monitoring (i.e., ongoing review, discussion, and coaching around social media content) is advised for most youths’ social media use; autonomy may increase gradually as kids age and if they gain digital literacy skills. However, monitoring should be balanced with youths’ appropriate needs for privacy.
  4. To reduce the risks of psychological harm, adolescents’ exposure to content on social media that depicts illegal or psychologically maladaptive behavior, including content that instructs or encourages youth to engage in health-risk behaviors, such as self-harm (e.g., cutting, suicide), harm to others, or those that encourage eating-disordered behavior (e.g., restrictive eating, urging, excessive exercise) should be minimized, reported, and removed;23 moreover, technology should not drive users to this content.
  5. To minimize psychological harm, adolescents’ exposure to “cyberhate” including online discrimination, prejudice, hate, or cyberbullying especially directed toward a marginalized group (e.g., racial, ethnic, gender, sexual, religious, ability status),22 or toward an individual because of their identity or allyship with a marginalized group should be minimized.
  6. Adolescents should be routinely screened for signs of “problematic social media use” that can impair their ability to engage in daily roles and routines and may present risk for more serious psychological harms over time.
  7. The use of social media should be limited so as to not interfere with adolescents’ sleep and physical activity.
  8. Adolescents should limit use of social media for social comparison, particularly around beauty- or appearance-related content.
  9. Adolescents’ social media use should be preceded by training in social media literacy to ensure that users have developed psychologically-informed competencies and skills that will maximize the chances for balanced, safe, and meaningful social media use.
  10. Substantial resources should be provided for continued scientific examination of the positive and negative effects of social media on adolescent development.

These recommendations are a lot to digest but are helpful ideas for consideration. I think it is an intriguing conclusion that teenagers should be trained in how to use social media. What a great thought! For more information here is the link to this very thorough and helpful article. I think all who are responsible for the care of adolescents will find it helpful. 

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