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Social Networking May Affect Kids’ Health

Report Urges Parents to Communicate and Participate When Kids Socialize Online

Parents Not Keeping Up continued...

Similarly, a 2009 poll by the group Common Sense Media, a San Francisco-based think tank that explores issues surrounding media use in youths, which questioned more than 2,000 teens and their parents about social networking, found that nearly one in four teens check these sites more than 10 times a day. Just 4% of parents knew that, however. About one in eight teens with Facebook or MySpace pages said that their parents didn’t know about the account.

When it comes to sexting, the practice of sending sexually explicit pictures or messages, a nationwide poll commissioned by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and the magazine CosmoGirl found that 22% of teenage girls and 18% of teenage boys said they had posted or sent nude or semi-nude pictures or video of themselves. Thirty nine percent said they had posted explicit messages. Sixty-eight percent, however, said that disappointing family members would be a reason to be concerned about doing that.

Benefits and Risks of Sharing in Cyberspace

In setting up the new guidelines for doctors to talk to patients and their parents about social networking, the report stresses that there are plenty of healthy reasons to connect online, including nurturing friendships and community engagement. Community engagement includes such areas as raising money for charity or getting involved in the political process, learning in virtual classrooms, and even taking advantage of the privacy afforded by the Internet to get answers about health issues that might be hard to bring up face to face.

But there can be significant downsides, too.

In particular, negative interactions like cyberbullying and harassment can lead to depression, anxiety, severe isolation, and even suicide.

In the Common Sense Media poll, one in five teens admitted to sexting, which can have legal consequences. The report notes cases of teens charged with felony child pornography and labeled as sex offenders for passing explicit messages or pictures.

Still other studies have investigated a relatively new phenomenon called “Facebook depression” -- signs of depression that develop after young adults spend a great deal of time on social media sites.

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