Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The American Academy of Pediatrics on Social Media, "Facebook Depression"

In a report released today, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) weighs-in on the pros and cons of social media and tweens. The report is titled "The Impact of Social Media Use on Children, Adolescents and Families" and can be downloaded from their website. We've pulled out the key takeaways for you below:

First, the good news:
  • Social media can be a positive in helping tweens and teens to communicate - especially those who tend to be shy in group situations.
  • Knowing how to use online social networks, smartphones and mobile phones is actually a relevant technical skill set.
  • Volunteering and youth activism is positively enabled by social media, and it's getting more tweens and teens involved.
  • Using social media can help a child to refine his or her identity by giving her an outlet for self-expression and helping her to find others with like interests.
  • Believe it or not, middle and high school students truly are using Facebook and other social networks for studying - for group projects in school and exchanging ideas and continuing substantive conversations beyond the classroom.
  • Students have readier access to important health information and can easily connect with others who face similar medical conditions. They can even use these channels to better communicate with their doctors, stay more compliant with their treatment protocols, and miss fewer doses of medication as a result of being more connected.
But there is also a darker side to social media usage by tweens and teens. We've touched upon some of these issues in earlier articles including our report from the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention. The AAP outlined the following as issues for parents to be aware of and keep vigilant about:
  • Tweens in particular can find themselves in situations online that are not age-appropriate.
  • Social media, online gaming and the like can be "addictive" from a behavioral standpoint and interfere with homework, sleep and face-to-face interactions.
  • If not explicitly addressed, students can inadvertently release and share personal information online, raising privacy, advertising to youth, exploitation, and other concerns.
  • Cyberbullying and sexting, themselves dangerous behaviors, can lead to severe depression among tweens and teens and may go unnoticed if parents are not aware of the networks in which their children participate. The AAP coins the term "Facebook Depression" in this report and defines it as what happens when tweens and teens "spend a great deal of time on Facebook and then begin to exhibit the classic the signs of depression."
The report is aimed at pediatricians and calls upon them to advise parents in the following way:
  • Ask about and understand how your child uses social media and technology,
  • Become better educated in the technologies your child is using,
  • Have a family policy for online usage including a way to double-check privacy settings/controls and monitor inappropriate posts, and
  • Actively monitor online usage and don't depend upon software to do this for you.
Related links:
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