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Teens should be trained in media literacy and limit their screen time, say psychologists


The American Psychological Association released a set of 10 recommendations on Tuesday for teens’ use of social media, including training them in media literacy and limiting screen time so it doesn’t interfere. with sleep or physical activity.

The guidelines recognize that teens are going to use social media no matter what, which is why the organization said it aimed to offer suggestions for teens and the parents, teachers and tech companies involved in their lives. Other recommendations include: tailoring social media use to young people’s developmental abilities, regularly screening for “problematic social media uses”, and limiting the amount of social media use by teens to compare beauty or beauty. appearance of others.

“There’s a lot of talk on social media these days, including some suggestions that don’t align with the science,” said APA Scientific Director Mitch Prinstein, co-chair of the advisory group that developed the guidelines. recommendations. “We are publishing this report now to provide a scientific and balanced perspective on this issue so that all stakeholders can make decisions based on our expertise regarding the potential benefits and risks associated with social media.”

The experts who made these suggestions come from various fields of psychology, Prinstein said. They analyzed the latest research to determine where science has reached consensus on teens and social media, he said.

While some of the experts’ recommendations are practical, like providing teens with resources on the positive and negative sides of social media, others are more nebulous, like minimizing teens’ exposure to “cyberhate.”

Prinstein compared teens’ use of social media to driving a car, as keeping teens safe should be a team effort that includes policy development, parental supervision and changes. companies that manufacture the products.

“Social media is here to stay,” Prinstein said. “So we have to teach children to make the most of it and avoid the worst.”

Social media is here to stay. We must therefore teach children to make the most of it and avoid the worst.

— Mitch Prinstein, co-chair of the advisory committee that developed the recommendations

Concern is growing about what young people consume on social media and how it affects their view of themselves. Politicians and lawmakers have placed the companies behind social media apps such as Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat under increased scrutiny amid reports that some users have struggled with body image issues and suicidal thoughts, among other mental health effects.

Last month, a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation that would require social media users to be at least 13 years old and require parental consent for users between the ages of 13 and 17.

Lawsuits against some social media companies are also making their way through the court system. A class action lawsuit, which brings together more than 100 similar cases, alleges that social media is harmful to young users and compares its addiction to that of opioids or tobacco.

The new recommendations target a variety of stakeholders: parents, educators, tech companies and teens themselves. The hope, Prinstein said, is that the parties work together to help young users achieve positive results when using social media.

Emma Woodward, a clinical psychologist at the nonprofit Child Mind Institute, said the recommendations would likely be useful for people who interact with teens on a daily basis, such as parents and teachers. She suggested turning individual directives into conversation starters with teenagers.

“I definitely think the best way to help kids be safe online is if it’s a collaboration between parents and their kids or teens,” said Woodward, who didn’t participated in the creation of recommendations. “This collaboration will likely be the most effective in helping children use social media safely.”

Woodward said she’s glad the recommendations reflect an understanding that teens will use social media, whether parents, educators or tech platforms step in. But she said that, while admirable, some of the guidelines might be difficult to put into practice – like avoiding cyber-hate.

“While of course I think it’s very ambitious to avoid cyber hate, I think it’s also something the vast, vast majority of kids and teens who use social media are likely to encounter” , she said.

Prinstein said the guidelines were not intended to defame social media, but rather to provide a safer approach.

“It was absolutely important that we reflect the science accurately, and that includes discussing both the benefits and the potential warning signs that we see related to the use of social media,” he said.

In a report accompanying the recommendations, the authors said that social media “is not inherently beneficial or harmful to young people” and that those who use it in moderation and in ways that help cultivate their offline communities are likely to benefit. connections made there. . The recommendations also recognize that young people struggling with a mental illness, such as social anxiety, can benefit from interacting with others on social media.

However, the authors added that this group could also experience harm from social media, such as viewing content that encourages eating disorders or self-harm.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.