Archive - Mar 29, 2011

How Should Doctors and Parents Talk about Social Media?

Yesterday, The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a report, The Impact of Social Media Use on Children, Adolescents and Families. Since I am the social media manager at a health center, this was a big topic for me today. I haven’t had a chance to closely read the report, but there are a few things that I want to highlight.

In the press release, the AAP provided links to three YouTube videos of one of the co-author’s of the report talking about it. This is an illustration of some of the benefits of social media. Indeed, the AAP report seems to balance very well the benefits and risks for social media and has some important things to recommend, including

  • Advise parents to talk to children and adolescents about their online use and the specific issues that today’s online kids face, such as cyberbullying, sexting, and difficulty managing their time.
  • Advise parents to work on their own “participation gap” in their homes by becoming better educated about the many technologies their children are using.

Many people think that the dangers of social media to kids is around online predators. I think the AAP is wise to focus on much more pervasive dangers such as cyberbullying and sexting, as well as the time management issues.

I also applaud the AAP for advising parents to work on their own participation gap. If parents are going to be effective in talking with their kids about social media, they need to roll up their sleeves, kick around social media, and understand the issues.

I don’t know if the report goes to the next logical step, but I think there is an important followup. Not only must parents work on their participation gap, but medical providers must as well. Related to that, health organizations need to address these gaps. The place I work, I believe, is well ahead of the curve, as I speak with people about social media policies and educating providers about social media. However, many institutions block providers from accessing social media, and I believe that such blocking makes it harder for pediatricians and other providers to really understand, and effectively communicate with their patients about social media, the way AAP suggests pediatricians should urge parents to talk with their children about social media.

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