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MOCA Time: Social Media Risks in Children

Corinn Cross MD and Solomon Behar, MD
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General pediatrician Cori Cross and Sol review the good, the bad, and the annoying (for parents) aspects of social media use in children.

 
  • Social media is broadly defined as any social interaction that involves posting without a purpose and without face to face feedback. 

  • Kids younger than 13 should not have access to social media. By law, social media platforms cannot collect data on kids younger than 13 years old. 

  • It is important for the pediatrician to ask what a family is hoping to accomplish by giving their child a device. This can help set up expectations for how the device will be used. For example, if the parent needs to communicate with their child, then a phone might be okay but he or she may not need a phone with internet access. 

  • Benefits of social media include: 

    • Connecting kids with their friends

    • Meeting kids who have similar interests

    • Seeing relatives who live far away

    • Keeps kids  from isolation if they are going through a rare situation (like a pandemic!)

  • Risks of increasing social media use include: 

    • Missed social cues in person to person communication

    • Bullying

    • Increased rates of loneliness and depression 

      • To limit this effect, Dr. Cross recommends limiting kids to 30 minutes per day of social media

    • Self-judgment

    • Sedentary lifestyle/obesity

    • Sleep deprivation

  • Kids should have a device curfew. More specifically, devices should not be used the hour before bedtime and devices should be kept outside of the bedroom during sleep.

  • When trying to limit device time, Dr. Cross recommends allowing children to learn to budget their own time. This can be done by telling the child “you have x amount of time this week to use your device, use it at your will.” This encourages the child to keep track of their use and to self-regulate. 

  • Devices should not be permitted during mealtimes. 

  • Consider incrementally increasing device privileges. It is much easier to give new privileges than to take them away when things do not go as planned. 

Pediatricians should be asking about social media use. Important questions to ask include "what would you do if you felt bullied online?” and “do you know what you would do if somebody sends you something inappropriate?" You want to ensure that patients know what resources are available to them.

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