Social Media Challenges and Concerns for Families

By: Gwenn Schurgin O’Keeffe, MD

INTRODUCTION
“What’s the harm?” That’s the age-old rhetorical question parents ask when trying to
convince themselves that the new shiny toy or gizmo on the block is safe for their children.
In the age of electronics, this question has been asked about every new device:
video cassette recorders, televisions, radios, Walkmen, MP3 players, cell phones
used as phones, smart phones, tablets, gaming systems, apps, and now social media.
As with issues in the nondigital world, safety with social media is a balance between
common sense and understanding the rules of what one is using. Social media is a
tool. Like all tools, whether there is harm or not depends on how it is used. Used
correctly, there should not be a need for concern. Used incorrectly, problems could
arise.
Technology is faceless so it is tempting to forget that issues can occur from its use.
Technology seems like a mere tool, an extension of the ability to connect and communicate.
With a device in hand, we forget that there are people at the other end. With
interactions with people, however, complications can arise from miscommunications
to true harm, such as privacy breaches and bullying.
With face-to-face connections, we are not so brazen. We take more care in how we
interact. We are careful in our choice of words and our mannerisms. We teach our
Pediatrics Now, PO Box 5336, Wayland, MA 01778, USA
E-mail address: DrGwenn@pediatricsnow.com
KEYWORDS
 Social media  Cyber-bullying  Sexting  Family media plan  Texting
 Applications  Games
KEY POINTS
 Social media is everywhere and used by adults and children.
 Social media can have a positive impact on child development in terms of fostering
communication, socialization, and learning.
 Social medial can have a negative impact on child development with such issues as
bullying, sexting, and inappropriate content contributing to additional issues.
 Social media can have positive and negative issues on family health and needs to be used
within a family with attention and care with a focus on the ages of the children at home.

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