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Media Use in Children and Adolescents

Posted on Oct 24, 2017

Dr. Jasmine Reese

Over the past decade we have seen the use of media, including social media sites, continue to rise. Estimates show more than 76 percent of teens use at least one social media platform. About 75 percent of adolescents own a smart phone, which allows for easy access to social media sites, internet, TV and video games. Jasmine Reese, M.D., director of the Adolescent and Young Adult Specialty Clinic at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, shares why this topic is so important and explains what health benefits and risks are associated with the media use.

What are some of the benefits of media use?

The use of media including TV, internet and social media platforms, are a great way for our kids and adolescents to learn new ideas, research information, and discover new events that are occurring locally and even around the world. Students can work on school assignments and group projects using media. Media is a great way to raise awareness to important issues such as promoting healthy behaviors and safe practices. It is also a great way for families and adolescents to connect with each other and seek support if they are suffering from a complex medical disorder or chronic illness.

What are some of the risks of media use?

One of the biggest risks and most studied health concerns related to media use includes obesity and prolonged screen time. Research has shown that the risk of being overweight is five times greater in adolescents who watch more than five hours of television per day. Pediatricians recommend less than two hours of screen time per day to help prevent this. Media use can also affect sleep. Most adolescents sleep with their phones in their rooms and the exposure to bright light before bedtime can disrupt their sleep patterns. This is concerning because poor sleep can negatively impact their school performance. Other risks to be aware of are overuse of online media, such as preoccupation with video games to the point of the child not wanting to engage in real-life relationships and not wanting to complete homework assignments. Students and teens also sometimes engage in negative online behaviors, such as cyber bullying and sexting. We know these can have severe consequences on their overall health, including mental health.

What can families do to help their children and adolescents use media safely?

  1. As a family create a media use plan (www.healthychildren.org/MediaUsePlan).
  2. Have consistent time limits on use of media in the home.
  3. Be aware of what social media platforms your teens are using and set privacy settings.
  4. Create media-free spaces in the home.
  5. No devices in the bedroom at bedtime.
  6. Parents or trusted adults can engage with teens on social media.

This information was shared on WTVT-TV’s Doc on Call segment, which is aimed at helping parents learn more about children’s health issues. The segment airs each Monday morning on Good Day Tampa Bay.


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