Pediatricians: Communicate Social Media Risks to Adolescents

This cannot be said enough: pediatricians (and parents!!!) need to stay abreast of social media trends to help protect children.  Social media takes what might have been considered innocent (though not well thought out) pranks and amplifies them, extending the reach and making any negative outcomes both public and longer lasting.

Vine, an iPhone app that helps users capture six seconds (and only six) of video and then share it with friends and followers, has some teens making ill-advised decisions in the public sphere.

Matt Espinosa, a 16 year-old Virgina boy, has amassed quite a following of (mostly) younger adolescent girls through his Vines.  This past weekend, he organized a meet-up with his fans at a mall in Fairfax, Va.  The screaming pre-teens created such riotous chaos that other shoppers and security guards thought there was a shooting.  Espinosa is cute, no doubt, but this new ability to organize crowds via smartphones can lead to trouble, costing taxpayers and businesses money, and may not be the sort of fame he’s proud of in 20 years or so.

Last week, another teenage boy, Obi Nwosu, attempted to film himself jumping over an oncoming car for Vine.  He was hit by the car – and it was all caught on film.  Nwosu posted it to Vine originally, but then deleted it realizing that he shouldn’t “do it for Vine.”

The thing most teens (and many adults) still don’t seem to understand is that nothing is ever permanently deleted from the Internet.  It didn’t take long for the video to resurface and quickly gain cringe popularity.

Socialmediaphobe’s bottom line is, once again: pediatricians, talk to your patients (and their parents) about social media.  The speed of social media fame is incredibly fast; stunt videos that they may think make them cool can be dangerous and permanent, and have long-lasting implications on their health, their future college and job opportunities.  Many of today’s youth only access the Internet from their smartphones, making it even harder for parents to track their activities – and more important!  Keep abreast of changing technologies so that you can talk to patients about making good choices.

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