New social media recommendations for teens focus on preventing harmReading Time: 2 minutes
Many of these American Psychological Association guidelines are meant to help parents protect their pre-teens and teenagers.
A new report from the American Psychological Association (APA) gives parents of adolescents information that is often hard to find: an up-to-date, thorough list of recommendations for social media use.
Included in the APA’s 10 recommendations are commonsense tips, like reasonably monitoring social media use, limiting time spent so that it doesn’t interfere with sleep and exercise, and minimizing use for social comparison, particularly related to beauty- and appearance-related content.
The report also highlights the importance of regularly screening pre-teens and teens for ‘problematic’ social media use as well as offering social media literacy training to help them develop skills like questioning the accuracy of content they see and understanding tactics for spreading misinformation.
Written by a panel of experts who focus on adolescent mental health, the recommendations are meant to reach policymakers, educators, mental health clinicians, technology companies, and teens, in addition to parents and caregivers.
‘This is what needs to happen, from everyone, if we want to keep kids safe,’ Dr. Mitch Prinstein, a co-author of the guidelines and the APA’s chief science officer, told MediaDownloader.
The authors write that while social media isn’t inherently good or bad, it can benefit or harm teens depending on how they use it — and how technology companies design their products. They caution that social media use should also reflect a teen’s home environment and their maturity, including their intellectual and emotional development, and how well they can comprehend the risks.
While it’s difficult to demonstrate a direct, causal link between screen use and negative mental health effects, the authors base their recommendations on studies that, with some limitations, suggest there is a connection.
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In particular, the recommendations focus on minimizing exposure to dangerous content, including content that depicts illegal behavior, self-harm, hurting others, and encouraging disordered eating. Similarly, teens shouldn’t be exposed to ‘cyberhate,’ which includes online discrimination, prejudice, hate, or cyberbullying directed toward a marginalized group, because such content can increase risk for mental health problems, the report states.
The authors write that teens should be ‘trained to recognize online structural racism and critique racist messages’ as an antidote against experiencing psychological distress after viewing traumatic race-related events online.
They also call for social media literacy training that ‘will maximize the chances for balanced, safe, and meaningful social media use.’
‘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,’ APA President Dr. Thema Bryant said in a statement.
Though the authors mention the role that product design choices like notifications and algorithms play in amplifying certain types of content and engagement, they do not take a position on regulating social media companies, as some critics and politicians have done.
But Prinstein, drawing on the report’s broad recommendations, noted that companies could be tasked with re-designing their products specifically for developing brains, publishing their privacy policies in language that is accessible to teens, building social media literacy tools directly into their platforms, and more aggressively identifying and removing cyberhate.
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