Stories about: social media

Coming of age in a Snapchat world: How do I keep my child safe?

How to keep your kids safe on social media

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Reddit. As a parent, your instinct is always to protect your child. But how 
do you protect them in the ever-evolving digital landscape? Social media has become a part of our everyday lives and is changing the way we interact with the world around us. According to a study by Common Sense Media, teenagers use an average of nine hours of entertainment media a day and tweens (ages 8-12) use an average of six hours per day. This does not include using media for school or homework.

What is the long-term impact of this amount of media exposure on the developing brain? We don’t yet know. What we do know is that it is impossible to prevent your child from using social media. So, how can you help them use it safely?

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My 14-year-old daughter is addicted to social media, what should I do?

Michael RichQ: My 14-year-old daughter is seemingly addicted to her smartphone, particularly social media (Instagram and Snap Chat) and texting with her friends. I’ve never seen it this bad before. During the school year, she had no problem leaving her phone in her backpack while at home, and she’s always been a good student, with plenty of friends I approve of. As soon as this summer hit, though, she’s been driving our family crazy with her constant texting, picture taking and giggling over whatever is on her phone. It came to a head last week on our family camping trip when she had a meltdown over the lack of cell service. We eventually got her to go, but she fumed and pouted the entire time, and since back, seems more attached to her phone than ever. I’m worried that she’s missing out on quality family time, but every time we force her to be with us phone-free, she seems miserable. What can I do?

~ Dysfunction at Disconnection, NH

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Ask the Mediatrician: How does social media affect body image?

Michael RichQ: I am a 7th grader working on an independent research project about whether using social media can be addictive and how using social media affects adolescent girls’ body image. What does the scientific research show? And how can I learn more about this?

~ Scrutinizing Social Media, Wellesley, MA

Dear Scrutinizing,

As a seventh grader, this is an important topic for you to research and to teach your friends about, since you are turning 13, the age at which you are legally able to be using social media. First, let’s address whether social media are “addictive”. We need to be careful about using stigmatizing terms such as “addiction” when discussing behaviors, such as using social media, as they are not exactly the same as addictions to substances, such as alcohol or drugs. While there are social media behaviors that can be compulsive and excessive, such as constantly checking updates, counting “likes” or changing what you have posted, even late into the night, they are qualitatively different. Physical changes occur in the body of a heroin or alcohol addict which cause them to need more of the substance all the time to feel okay and which cause them to be really sick and need medical intervention when they cannot get heroin or alcohol. The psychological need to be on social media more and more, and the anxiety that may occur when not online, are not physical and can be overcome without medical care. Nevertheless, there are many young people who have an attachment to their online lives, whether it be to social media or gaming, that is unhealthy and can cause them significant problems with school performance, social life, and even physical health. They need help to regain balance in their lives, but I am concerned that using the negative term “addiction”, will only lead to denial (most addicts don’t think they have a problem) and not seeking the care and support that they need.

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MyViewPoints: Sharing information, connecting communities

Adrienne found online communities helpful when recovering from Lyme disease

About two years ago I became very sick. After dealing with illness for a number of months I was finally diagnosed with Lyme disease. Suddenly I had an explanation for all the symptoms I was feeling: aches and pains, headaches, blurred vision, dizziness, memory loss, upset stomachs, anxiety, depression.

I was lucky to find a great local doctor and have a supportive network of friends and family to lean on. I took my prescribed antibiotics and felt better. I took time off from work and gave my body time to heal. Both played into my eventual recovery, as did the support network I found online. By connecting with an online Lyme disease community I learned what hurdles other people like me were facing, and how they beat (or at least coped with) those hurdles. I asked questions like what homeopathic remedies worked best for them? How did they alleviate anxiety? How were they able to ease the upset stomachaches caused by their antibiotics?

I was helping myself get better, and after a while started sharing my own remedies and coping mechanisms. The back and forth developed into strong, supportive relationships that were very important to me. They didn’t take the place of a trip to the doctor’s office or real life bonds I had, but it was so helpful to have access to people who understood my ups and downs, didn’t mind my occasional venting and were so eager to share information.

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