Irish Medical Organisation

Social networking sites pose new threats to teens -IMJ

Irish Medical Journal Press Release

Social Networking sites posing new hazards to teenagers

A study published in the most recent edition of the Irish Medical Journal suggests that Social Networking Site (SNS) usage amongst Irish teenagers poses significant dangers, which are going largely unaddressed.
Over the decade, the use of SNSs has increased substantially, especially among the teenage population.  This has subjected young people to hazards specifically associated with online culture in a way that differs from other forms of online communication. 
The authors, Machold et al, from the Department of Paediatrics, Trinity Centre for Health Sciences, AMNCH, Tallaght said; “It is imperative that modern physicians are aware of this phenomenon, which is very much a part of young peoples’ lives, and features so prominently in their parents’ concerns.”
This study aimed to determine general patterns of Internet usage among Irish teenagers aged 11-16 years, and to identify potential hazards including; bullying, inappropriate contact, overuse, addiction and invasion of users’ privacy. The study was conducted in three Dublin secondary schools. A sample of 474 completed the questionnaire during February and March 2011.
Study participants primarily accessed the Internet using a shared computer in the home.  Despite this, only 2% of these children said that they were supervised while using the Internet.  28% of the children surveyed said that their parents placed limitations on their usage.  Of note however, 49% of these also had access on their mobile phones, which was consistent with the overall rate of mobile access (50%).  This data suggests that a substantial proportion of children are not supervised while using the internet and that parental limitation on use is minimal.
Examining potential online hazards in the use of new social media, 16% of males and 5% of females stated that they had bullied or purposely excluded others through SNS. Of those subject to bullying, 45% of males in turn admitted to bullying or excluding others. Comparatively, among females who felt bullied, 8% admitted to bullying others.
Furthermore one third of children mentioned that they had been made to feel uncomfortable in their use of an SNS, and worryingly 37%of these cases could be accounted for by adult actions.
When asked about the overuse of social networking sites, 33% of users said that they thought they spent too much time using SNS.  40% had tried to spend less time using SNSs, and 40% found it difficult to resist SNSs. 
Concerning accessibility of personal information, 42% of users shared their school, 25% their location (using mobile global positioning system), and 34% their photographs with persons potentially unknown to them.
As the authors note, the numbers remarking on bullying in this study is substantial and a cause for greater concern. One in ten children (aged 11-16 years) experienced bullying via social networking. 
“Bullying through this medium is of particular concern, as problems faced by children online may not readily come to parents’ attention,” state the authors. 
It is apparent that a significant proportion of Irish young people view internet access through various media as a source of social interaction. In turn increased time spent online increases inactivity; a common theme around growing obesity levels in society. 
Children in this age group primarily use the Internet for the purpose of social networking; 92% are users of one or more social network site, with 72% reporting a high frequency of use of SNSs.  Facebook specifically is frequently used by 82%, with 95% of SNS users being member of this site.  
All references and author names are contained in the full article in this month’s IMJ, p.151:
 “Social Networking Patterns/Hazards Among Teenagers”. See also
May 2012 ■ Volume 105 ■ Number 5
Official Journal of the Irish Medical Organisation
For further information contact:
Communications Unit
Irish Medical Organisation
Tel. 01 676 7273

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