New Children’s Hospital of Chicago study looks at teens' online use

Updated: Oct. 15, 2020 at 4:39 PM EDT
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(WWBT) - Teenagers are on screens and social media more than ever before - especially as many have had to social distance from their peers. It’s a way to stay in touch at an unusual time.

But all that time online also has parents concerned, according to a new study from the Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

The study polled 2,000 current or recent parents of teenagers, looking at the consequences of social media, and the concerns of parents.

Two focuses included:

  • What social media takes children away from, like sleep and face-to-face interaction.
  • What social media exposes them to, such as hate speech or inappropriate content.

The top parent concerns regarding smartphone use included:

  • Not sleeping enough
  • Not enough physical activity
  • Not enough focus on schoolwork
  • Unhealthy need for approval or attention
  • Not enough face-to-face interaction.

Parents also ranked the social media platforms, listing Instagram and Snapchat as the most concerning. TikTok, Facebook and Youtube rounded out the top five.

Sixty-seven percent of parents said they were concerned their kids were addicted to social media, and more than that believe it influences their child’s ability to interact normally.

Experts say all screen time is not equal. Researchers encourage parents to think about how kids are spending time on devices and whether it is enhancing social support and connectedness or creating negative interactions that focus on comparisons and reduce in-person interactions.

Young people have long turned to movies, music and gaming for socializing and entertainment. But the researchers point out that online risks often reflect offline vulnerabilities.

If your kids have self-concept issues, eating disorders or depression in-person, they’ll be at risk for those online.

So the tools you use offline may help you guide your kids online, too.

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