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Social Media Use by Youngsters

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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has designed a website giving recommendations to parents about monitoring their children’s use of social media. This blog report is from that AAP web site. 

Today’s teens and “tweens” are connected to one another, and to the world, via digital technology more than any previous generation. Recent data suggests that social media (SM) venues like Facebook and MySpace have surpassed e-mail as the preferred method of communication in all age groups.

While today’s tweens and teens may be more digitally savvy than their parents, their lack of maturity and life experience can quickly get them into trouble with these new social venues. For this reason, it is imperative that parents talk with their children of all ages about social media, and monitor their online use to help them navigate the online social world. How parents talk with their kids and teens will vary by age, depending on the topic being discussed. These tips will help you start that journey with your family.

Learn about these technologies first hand. There is simply no better way than to have a profile yourself. It will also enable you to “friend” your kids and monitor them on line. Let them know that their use of technology is something you want (and need) to know about. For kids of all ages, ask daily: “Have you used the computer or the Internet today?” Technology use will vary by age.

Tweens are likely to be using more instant messaging and texting, while teens use those technologies and also networking sites such as Facebook. (These tools often are referred to as “platforms” for social networking.)

Ask daily how your family used those tools with questions such as: “What did you write on Facebook today?” “Any new chats recently?” “Anyone text you today?”

Share about your own daily SM use as a way to facilitate daily conversation about your kids’ online habits.

Get your kids talking about their SM lives if you can, just so you know what they are doing. Keep the computer in a public part of your home, such as the family room or kitchen, so that you can check on what your kids are doing online and how much time they are spending.

Talk with other parents about what their kids of similar ages are using for SM. Ask your kids about those technologies as a starting point for discussion. If they are in the same peer group, there is a good chance they are all using the same platforms together. For example: “Mrs. Smith told me Jennifer uses Facebook. Is that something you’ve thought of doing? Do you already have a profile? If so, I’d like to see it.”

Author

Gary L. Hopkins, MD, DrPH, MPH is currently an associate research professor at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan where he is also associate director of the Institute for Prevention of Addictions, Director of the Center for Prevention Research and Director of the Center for Media Impact Research.