Health advice on social media use during adolescence

A. Social media use is not inherently beneficial or harmful to young people. Teens’ lives online both reflect and influence their offline lives. In many cases, the effects of social media are based on the personal and psychological characteristics and social conditions of adolescents – combined with the specific content, behaviors or activities provided in many social media platforms. In other words, the effects of social media depend on what teens can do and see online, the strengths or vulnerabilities of teens, and the contexts in which they grow up.3

b. Adolescents’ online experiences are affected by both 1) how they shape their own social media experiences (eg, choose who they like and follow); and 2) visible and invisible features built into social media platforms.

C. Not all findings are equal for all youth. Scientific findings provide information that can be used in conjunction with knowledge of specific youth strengths, weaknesses, and context to make decisions that are appropriate for each adolescent, family, and community.4

D. Adolescent development is gradual and continuous, beginning with biological and neurological changes that occur before puberty (ie, beginning at approximately 10 years of age) and lasting at least as long as changes in the youth’s social environment (eg, peer, family, and surprise). school context) and neurological changes are complete (ie by age 25).5 Age-appropriate social media use should be based on each adolescent’s maturity level (eg, self-control, intellectual development, risk perception) and home environment.6 Because adolescents mature at different stages and there is no evidence to suggest that children are unaffected by the risks and opportunities of social media at a certain age, research is underway to identify a time or age point for many. Of these recommendations. In general, risks may be greater in early adolescence—a time of greater biological, social, and psychological transition—than in late adolescence and early adulthood.7, 8

E. As researchers have found with the widespread use of the Internet, racism (that is, often reflecting the attitudes of those constructing technology) is built into social media platforms. For example, algorithms (ie, the mathematical instructions that guide users’ daily experiences to the posts they see) can often underlie centuries of racist policies and discrimination.9 Social media can be a community and training incubator for racism.10 The potential impact, including offline physical violence as well as threats to security, is far reaching.11

F. These recommendations are based on psychological science and related disciplines at the time of writing (April 2023). Collectively, these studies have been conducted with thousands of adolescents who have completed standardized assessments of social, behavioral, psychological, and/or neurological functioning, and engaged (or been exposed) to specific social media activities or content. However, these studies have limitations. First, findings suggesting causal associations are rare, as the data needed to make cause-effect conclusions may be challenging to collect and/or may exist within technology companies, but not accessible to independent scientists. Second, long-term (ie, multi-year) longitudinal research is often not available. Therefore, the link between youth social media use and long-term outcomes (ie, into adulthood) is largely unknown. Third, relatively few studies have been conducted with marginalized youth populations, including youth marginalized by race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, socioeconomic background, disabilities, and/or chronic developmental or health problems.

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