Teens and social media

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Most teens (and many tweens) in the US actively use a variety of social media platforms daily – starting, but not ending with Facebook. Keeping up with new social media options is challenging! We encourage parents to stay tuned into the social media world and try to understand the scope of their kids’ online presence – while still respecting the importance of privacy.

Logically, social media appeals to teens, offering opportunities for creativity, strengthening identity, and staying connected to friends. Research shows that social media allows exposure to new ideas and knowledge.  Teens may collaborate on projects through social media platforms.  As well, it may provide social contact and support – this may especially benefit those feeling marginalized or lonely, for example, LGBTQI youth.  Social media can also be a source of health promotion messages for teens.

At the same time, social media may expose teens to real-life risks to safety and well-being. There are readily accessible sites promoting unhealthy behaviors – and ALL users (no matter the age) may struggle to identify reputable sites. For example, some websites encourage unhealthy eating behaviors (bulimia, anorexia).  Recent research shows a negative impact on sleep habits and sleep cycles related to screen use. Concerns about depression associated with social media use are being explored. Adults rightfully must be aware that teens’ privacy and confidentiality may be compromised through social media use.

Here are 5 great tips for wise use of social media for teens, whether sharing, posting, or uploading. Common Sense Media offers lots of guidelines for using media at all ages.

  1. Always use privacy settings
  2. Think before you post
  3. Never post mean messages or embarrassing photos
  4. Turn off your location
  5. Don’t spend all day online

For those of us who care deeply about adolescents, awareness of the power of social media – both the clear benefits and potential risks – is imperative. Media are only going to become more complex, more compelling, and more ubiquitous in all of our lives.

Dr. Marjorie HoganDr. Marjorie Hogan has over 35 years of experience delivering primary care to infants, children, adolescents, and young adults. She is board-certified in both general pediatrics and adolescent medicine. She has a special interest and expertise in general pediatrics and parenting, the impact of media and communication, child maltreatment, and adolescent health.

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