Social Media Is Parents' Friend, Not Enemy, New Report From Children's Mercy Hospitals And Clinics Finds

Despite perceived benefits, most parents support restricting Facebook access for children under age 13

KANSAS CITY, Mo., Aug. 16, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- A new report released today by Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City shows that most parents (83%) think the benefits of their kids' social media use, including sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, balance or outweigh perceived risks. The Healthy Perspectives: Parents, Kids and Social Media report also finds nearly three quarters (72%) of parents agree that their child's participation in social networking is good preparation for future work success in a world increasingly dependent on technology.

Other benefits cited for children include encouraging a more open-minded, creative and worldly viewpoint (57%); and enhancing the ability to collaborate with others (59%).

"The results of this report are surprising, given the attention paid to the dangers of social media for children," said Daryl Lynch, MD, Section Chief, Adolescent Medicine, at Children's Mercy. "There are benefits and risks for kids online, so we recommend moderation when it comes to social media use and online play. Exposing kids to a variety of activities provides balance and a strong foundation to grow into well-rounded adults."

Despite the benefits parents associate with online social networking, there are some lingering concerns, particularly for younger children, according to the Children's Mercy report. Most (68%) parents believe a child should be 13 or older to join Facebook. Additionally, nearly two-thirds (64%) of parents with children ages 12 or younger indicate they are concerned about sexting or inappropriate sexual behavior as a result of social media, while fewer than half (49%) of parents of children between the ages of 13 and 19 are concerned about the issue.

Parents with younger children, on average, are also more worried about:

  • Cyber bullying or verbal or physical abuse (56% of parents with children ages 12 and under vs. 41% of parents with children ages 13-19)
  • Opposition, hostility or aggressiveness (44% vs. 30%)
  • Cliques, shunning and hurtful behavior (53% vs. 43%)
  • Underdeveloped social skills (51% vs. 39%)
  • Depression and social withdrawal (43% vs. 34%)
  • Lack of ambition/enthusiasm (54% vs. 41%)

"Development at a younger age is closely tied to social skills and building relationships, so it is natural that parents of younger children are concerned about bullying and depression, both of which can impact socialization," said Edward Christophersen, PhD, clinical psychologist at Children's Mercy. "The most important thing a parent can do is set expectations for the child's privilege of using e-mail, text and social media tools, and then monitor, monitor, monitor."

About the Healthy Perspectives: Parents, Kids and Social Media Report

The Healthy Perspectives: Parents, Kids and Social Media report includes survey data results, analysis and key takeaways from the experts at Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, Mo. The online survey was conducted from June 14-20, 2012 among a national sample of 2,179 Americans age 13 or older, including 728 parents and 500 teenagers ages 13-19. Parental status was determined by respondents who reported they have one or more children under age 18. The total 2,179 respondents were weighted and balanced to conform to U.S. Census parameters for gender, age and region.  Results have a +/- 2.50% to 2.99% Margin of Error with 95% confidence at the "All Respondent" level, and a +/- 3.25% to 3.74% Margin of Error with 95% confidence for "All Parents," "All Teens," other demographic, sociographic, behavioral and attitudinal subgroups. The survey was developed and sponsored by Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics, with fieldwork provided by Toluna Online using its national consumer panel.

About Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics

Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics, located in Kansas City, Mo., is one of the nation's top pediatric medical centers. The 314-bed hospital provides care for children from birth through the age of 18, and has been recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center with Magnet designation for excellence in nursing services, and ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of "America's Best Children's Hospitals" in all 10 specialties they rank. Our faculty of 600 pediatricians and researchers across more than 40 subspecialties are actively involved in clinical care, pediatric research, and educating the next generation of pediatric subspecialists. For more information about Children's Mercy and its research, visit or download our mobile phone app CMH4YOU for all phone types. For breaking news and videos, follow us on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.


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