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Doctors urge parents to closely monitor their children’s social media time

November 28, 2013

Too much time spent on social media can be harmful for children.When it comes to improving health outcomes among children and teenagers, the major issues discussed usually include things like vaccinations, a healthy diet and screening for common diseases. But a new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics points to an issue you may not have considered: media exposure.1

In response to recent data, the AAP is recommending that parents set up a media use plan for their children, limit the amount of total entertainment screen time to less than two hours a day, and avoid allowing toddlers under the age of 2 access to screen media exposure altogether. It’s a recommendation that can be further encouraged by health professionals like physicians and certified medical assistants when they treat young patients and their parents.

Proliferation of social media and technology use
According to a recent survey from Common Sense Media, 72 percent of children age 8 or younger have used a mobile device or engaged in media activity. That is almost double the amount that was recorded when the same survey was taken two years ago. Seventeen percent of children in that age range used a mobile device on a daily basis in 2013.2

The AAP went even further, noting that many children and teens spend more than 11 hours a day using a variety of media: 84 percent of them are online, approximately 75 percent of them have a cell phone and 88 percent actively text message.

AAP response to data
Beyond the oft-cited problems that can arise from young people using social media – including cyberbullying, lack of sleep and social dysfunction – it can also lead to unhealthy long-term habits, especially physical inactivity. And the AAP is worried that parents aren’t doing enough to monitor their kids’ use of social media and technology.3

“We (the AAP) are worried that a lot of parents are clueless about their kids’ media use and how to manage it appropriately,” Victor Strasburger, a professor of pediatrics at the University of New Mexico and co-author of the AAP policy statement, told USA Today. “(They are) spending more time with media than they are in school. They are spending more time with media than in any activity other than sleeping. You could make the argument that media have taken over the primary role of teaching kids from schools and parents in many cases.”

The group also suggests that pediatricians and their support staff, including medical office assistants, inquire into social media use during office visits.

1 Tanner, Lindsey, “Docs Urge Limits on Kids’ Texts, Tweets,” Associated Press, Oct. 28, 2013.
2 “Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America 2013,” Common Sense Media, Fall 2013.
3 Healy, Michelle, “Doctors’ Rx: Make a Plan to Manage Kids’ Media Use,” USA Today, Oct. 28, 2013.

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