The guidelines include 10 recommendations published Tuesday on how parents, teachers, policymakers, tech companies and health care workers can make sure kids develop healthy social media habits.
“Social media is neither inherently harmful nor beneficial to our youth,” said APA President Thema Bryant. “But because young people mature at different rates, some are more vulnerable than others to the content and features on many social media platforms that science has demonstrated can influence healthy development.
“Just as we require young people to be trained in order to get a driver’s license, our youth need instruction in the safe and healthy use of social media.”
Kids are using social media now more than ever, with 95 percent of teenagers saying they have an account on a social media platform, according to a Pew Research Center survey.
And parents are noticing a change in their children. Half of parents with children younger than 18 feel that their children’s mental health has suffered since using social media, one recent survey found.
Under the guidelines, parents are urged to monitor their children’s social media activity and minimize their exposure to content that encourages self-harm, eating disorders and other “high-risk” behavior.
Parents and caregivers are also encouraged to minimize children’s exposure to online content that promotes prejudice or hate towards anyone based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or disability status.
Other recommendations include limiting kids’ and teens’ use of social media content regarding beauty or appearance and making sure that social media use is not interfering with sleep or physical activity.
“Social media use should not restrict opportunities to practice in-person reciprocal social interactions and should not contribute to psychological avoidance of in-person social interactions,“ the guidelines say.
An early sign that social media might be negatively impacting a child’s wellbeing is changes in their mood, according to Ariana Hoet, a pediatric psychologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
“With kids, when they are experiencing things like depression and anxiety, it comes out as irritability and anger more than sadness and nervousness,” Hoet said. “We definitely want to look for changes of pattern in their mood and then in their behavior.”
Some behavioral signs of unhealthy social media use among kids include strong cravings for social media, loss of relationships or educational opportunities because of social media use or deceptive behavior to maintain access to social media platforms, according to the guidelines.
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