American psychology group issues recommendations for kids’ social media use

One of America’s leading mental health organizations has unveiled guidelines designed to protect children from the potential harm of social media.

The American Psychological Association (APA) issued its first health advisory on social media use on Tuesday, addressing growing concerns about how social media designed for adults can negatively affect teenagers.

The report does not condemn social media, but instead states that online social media “is neither inherently beneficial nor harmful to young people” but should be used judiciously. The health advisory also doesn’t address specific social platforms, but instead addresses a broad set of concerns about children’s online lives with common sense advice and insights gleaned from broader research.

The APA’s recommendations focus on the role of parents, but the warning decries algorithms that push young users toward potentially harmful content, including posts that promote self-harm, disordered eating, racism and other forms of hate online

Other recommendations address children’s habits and routines, largely the domain of adult caregivers. The APA encourages regular screenings for “problematic social media use” in children. Red flags include behaviors that follow more traditional addiction symptoms, such as spending more time on social media than expected and lying to maintain access to social media sites.

Along these same lines, the APA recommends that parents be vigilant to prevent social media from disrupting sleep and physical activity routines, two areas that directly and seriously affect children’s mental health outcomes. “Insufficient sleep is associated with disruptions in adolescent brain neurodevelopment, adolescent emotional functioning, and risk of suicide,” the advisory states.

Some of the recommendations aren’t particularly easy to navigate in today’s social media landscape, even for adults. Part of the health warning advises limiting the time young users spend comparing themselves to others on social media apps, “especially around content related to beauty or appearance.”

“Research suggests that social media use for social comparisons related to physical appearance, as well as excessive attention and behaviors related to one’s own photos and comments on those photos, are related to body image poorer, eating disorders, and depressive symptoms, especially among girls,” the APA states, citing extensive research.

The APA emphasizes that outcomes on social media are also determined by offline experiences, and these vary greatly from child to child.

“In most cases, the effects of social media depend on adolescents’ personal and psychological characteristics and social circumstances, which intersect with the specific content, features, or functions offered on many networking platforms. social,” the APA wrote. “In other words, the effects of social media likely depend on what teens can do and see online, teens’ preexisting strengths or vulnerabilities, and the contexts in which they grow up.”

The organization also warns parents and platforms about adult design features that younger users may be more susceptible to, including algorithmic recommendations such as buttons and endless scrolling. These features, along with advertising served to users under 18, have come under increasing criticism from regulators seeking to protect children from being manipulated by features designed to shape the behavior of adults.

The APA recommends a reasonable and age-appropriate degree of “adult supervision” through device- and app-level parental controls and urges parents to model their own healthy relationships with social media.

“Science shows that adults’ (e.g., caregivers’) orientation and attitudes toward social media (e.g., using during interactions with their children, being distracted from in-person interactions by using of social media) may affect adolescents’ use of social media,” the APA writes.

One last tip is one that most adults will also benefit from: build digital literacy on various social media topics, including how to recognize misinformation tactics and how to resolve conflicts that originate on social platforms.

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In today’s connected world, many young children spend significant time online and on social media, often without parents’ full understanding of what they are exposed to. To address this challenge, the American Psychology Group has issued new guidelines to help parents better oversee their children’s social media usage.

The guidelines recommend that parents should be proactive in monitoring their child’s activities online. Parents should first get an understanding of the social media platforms and applications that their children are using. The group recommends that parental awareness be further cultivated by staying involved in their children’s online activities.

The American Psychological Group also suggests that parents consider restricting access to certain social networking sites. Many of these networks can contain unsafe content, such as inappropriate images, cyberbullying and other risks. Removing children’s access to these sites can help mitigate the danger. Law enforcement authorities should also be consulted if there is cause for concern.

The group also encourages children to learn healthy boundaries when it comes to their online activities. Children should be encouraged to use the internet responsibly and consciously, avoiding activities which could potentially damage their reputation or lead to undesirable outcomes. Additionally, children should be taught about the potential risks of posting personal information online, such as addresses and phone numbers.

While these are important measures, parents should also be proactive in using available technological tools to support responsible usage. Ikaroa is one such company which provides parents with a suite of digital parenting tools to help them monitor, safeguard, and educate their children’s online and offline activities across devices.

Overall, the American Psychological Group has made a valuable contribution to helping understand how parents can best manage children’s social media use. With the help of effective parental education and monitoring tools such as Ikaroa, young children can continue to learn, grow, and explore online with greater safety and peace of mind.


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