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Facing the realities of social networking and kids

 

Claire McCarthy,MD

A law proposed in California would require that social networking sites like Facebook take down content from the profiles of children under 18 if their parents request it.

On the flip side: Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, thinks that more children under 13 should be allowed to join social network sites. He says that they offer educational opportunities, and that children can learn from each other.

So who is right? Should kids be kept off Facebook until they are 18—or allowed on it when they are 8?

I don’t think either one is right.

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@Pediatrics: the AAP comments on social media use

Image: Flickr/uberculture

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a report Monday, saying teenagers who over use social media, like Facebook and twitter, could be engaging in risky behavior, with long-lasting, negative consequences. To prevent social media from becoming problematic, the AAP recommends parents monitor, and when necessary, limit their children’s use of social networking tools and websites.

But before you confiscate your kids’ cell phones and delete their Facebook accounts, it’s important to note that the AAP acknowledges that social media can be a healthy part of kids’ communication, assuming they have the proper guidelines.

“Engaging in social media is a routine activity that research has shown to benefit children and adolescents,” the report reads. “Social media allows teens to accomplish online many of the tasks that are important to them offline: staying connected with friends and family, making new friends, sharing pictures, and exchanging ideas.”

Translation: It’s not the technology that dangerous, but how it’s used that can be harmful. Constant access to information is a double-edged sword, and parents need to be mindful of that when examining their children’s online activities. For every website offering homework help, there is a site that helps kids cheat on tests. The same phone that lets them text you when they’re running late from soccer practice can easily be used to send wildly inappropriate pictures to her crush from biology class.

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