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LOL PPL? Social Media Can Be Serious for Kids

PHOTO: A new study finds that 83 percent of parents think that the benefits of children using social media outweigh the risks. Image by  Royalty-Free/Corbis
PHOTO: A new study finds that 83 percent of parents think that the benefits of children using social media outweigh the risks. Image by Royalty-Free/Corbis
August 23, 2012

HELENA, Mont. - Children and teenagers tweet, post pictures on Facebook and connect through many social media channels - and their parents in Montana and around the nation seem to accept it.

A national study by Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics finds 83 percent of parents think the benefits of social media and networking either outweigh or equal the risks.

Psychologist Dr. Edward Christophersen says consideration should be given to the child's age when deciding if he or she will be allowed to interact.

"Given the mind of an 8-, 10-, 12-, 13-year-old child, the risk-benefit ratio is unfavorable because they don't understand the possible repercussions of it."

Many of the parents surveyed said children under 13 should not be using social media. Some parents are convinced that it's OK for their children, though, because "all the kids in their class do it." Christophersen says the parents should be the ones to set the age at which they believe their child is old enough to handle social media responsibly.

Christophersen says once a child is granted permission to access Twitter or Facebook, parents should look over their child's shoulder.

"I think that the parents have an obligation to check the child's Facebook page, and I think they should periodically do a Google search for their child."

More than half of the parents surveyed were concerned about predators, bad language and sexual harassment. Nearly three-quarters of the parents, however, felt that social-media usage would help prepare their children for success in the changing digital age.

More details of the study are online at childrensmercy.org.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MT