May 9, 2023 – Just as a teenager must be trained to drive a car before getting a driver’s license, young people should be trained in how to safely use social media, says the top U.S. organization for therapists and psychologists.
The new list of 10 guidelines is also filled with oft-heard recommendations to limit and monitor social media use by young people. It is the first time that the American Psychological Association has issued social media usage recommendations, which it called a “health advisory.” The organization said a committee of experts based the guidance on research and science.
The authors stopped short of saying whether they believe social media use is harmful, and even discussed at length its potential benefits. They noted that social media use can help combat social isolation, particularly for kids who may go through “adversity or isolation in offline environments.”
Among the recommendations are to:
- Especially monitor use among 10- to 14-year-olds, because of the brain development during this age period and due to an immature level of self-control that isn’t fully developed until adulthood.
- Teach adolescents that social media should not be used for social comparison, “particularly around beauty- or appearance-related content.”
- Make sure that social media use is based on a youth’s maturity level, knowing that age-appropriateness varies based on self-regulation skills, intellectual development, comprehension of risks, and home environment.
Policymakers and health experts have sounded alarms recently about links between social media use and rising rates of youth mental health problems, including self-harm and thoughts of suicide. The American Psychological Association report writers also noted that the way social media platforms decide which content someone sees can contribute to racism and violence.
“For example, algorithms (i.e., a set of mathematical instructions that direct users’ everyday experiences down to the posts that they see) can often have centuries of racist policy and discrimination encoded,” the authors wrote. “Social media can become an incubator, providing community and training that fuel racist hate. The resulting potential impact is far reaching, including physical violence offline, as well as threats to well-being.”