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AAP to establish center to navigate youth social media use

The American Academy of Pediatrics intends on opening a center which will allow the organization to help youths navigate through social media, improving mental wellbeing and creating healthier social media use.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has announced plans to open a National Center of Excellence on Social Media and Mental Wellness, called Center of Excellence: Creating a Healthy Digital Ecosystem for Children and Youth.

The center will provide evidence-based education and technical assistance for the support of children and adolescents struggling with mental health as they use various social media platforms. It will be led by Megan Moreno, MD, a medical director focused on adolescents, and Jenny Radesky, MD, FAAP, focused on younger children.

“As an adolescent medicine physician and researcher, I’ve focused my research career on the intersection of adolescent health and digital media,” said Moreno. “I am passionate about leveraging research findings for real-life impact for teens and their families, so I am excited to be part of this incredible team to provide families with evidence-based tools to navigate digital media.”

Children often engage in social media at a young age, with content shown to them through an algorithm driven by keeping users’ attention and successfully marketing to them. This can impact the mental health of children and adolescents who use these platforms. The AAP has stated that it brings a unique perspective to tackling these issues.

The center’s goals are to: reduce risks and leverage the benefits of social media, improve the mental health of children and adolescents; help individuals guide youths through healthy social media use become more capable; and use communication, guidance, and other resources to promote evidence-based practices which lessen the impact of social media on mental wellbeing.

Educators, clinicians, youth, parents and community representatives, researchers, and industry representatives will take part in a cross-sectoral Technical Expert Panel to help guide the center alongside the medical directors. There will also be a Youth Advisory Panel to create content and activities at the center.

Funding for the center came from a $10 million reward granted to the AAP by the US Department of Health and Human Services, through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The AAP hopes to use this opportunity to expand knowledge on protecting children and adolescents online, outlining evidence on the benefits and risks of social media.

“This work will allow AAP to do what we do best: convene diverse experts, steep ourselves in the research, and work relentlessly, with children and adolescents at the center, until we can create a healthy digital ecosystem that supports and prioritizes their needs,” said AAP President Moira Szilagyi, MD, PhD, FAAP.

Reference:

AAP to launch new center of excellence on social media and youth mental health. American Academy of Pediatrics. September 13, 2022. Accessed September 19, 2022. https://www.aap.org/en/news-room/news-releases/aap/2022/aap-to-launch-new-center-of-excellence-on-social-media-and-youth-mental-health/