Today’s teens are spending more and more of their spare time at the digital playground versus the outdoor playground. New research showed that 22 percent of today’s teens are online more than 10 times a day. Also, more than 75 percent of teens own cell phones and more than half of the teens surveyed log on to a social media site more than once a day. Social media sites, like Facebook, are the main way teens and tweens interact socially.
Medical experts are concerned about depression, cyber-bullying, sexting and inappropriate content in our digital age.
According to Dr. Gwenn O'Keeffe, a Boston-area pediatrician and lead author of new American Academy of Pediatrics social media guidelines, there are unique aspects of Facebook which may affect teens with poor self-esteem.
O’Keefe said, "Facebook can be more painful than sitting alone in a crowded cafeteria which can make kids feel down. Facebook provides a skewed view of what is really going on. Online, there’s no way to see facial expressions or read body language."
As teens hangout at Facebook, status updates, happy photos and friend tallies can make teens feel worse. These "happy updates" can make teens feel like they don’t measure up to their peers and trigger depression.
O’Keefe said there are also benefits to using social media sites. One of the benefits is connecting with family and friends exchanging ideas and sharing pictures.
Another medical expert, Dr. Megan Moreno of the University of Wisconsin and an adolescent medicine specialist has studied online social networking. In research among college students, Moreno said, "Using Facebook can enhance feelings of social connectedness among well-adjusted kids and have the opposite effect on those prone to depression."
The March 28, 2011 issue of Pediatrics recommended that parents and kids respect the age requirements of social media sites. This sends the message to kids of honesty and online safety.
In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics released guidelines for pediatricians. AAP recommends the following:
• Parents need to educate themselves about the many technologies and websites being used by their teens.
• Develop an online-family use plan which involves regular family meetings to discuss online topics. Also, parents should check of privacy settings and online profiles for inappropriate posts.
• Parents should supervise online activities via active participation and communication versus remote monitoring with a net-nanny program.
Also, the AAP offers these sites to educate parents and teens about being responsible and respectful digital citizens. Those sites include:
Social Media and Sexting Tips from the AAP
The AAP Internet safety site
AAP public education site, Healthy Children.org