Initially recommended in June 2009, but updated earlier this month, the American Academy of Pediatrics (NYSE:AAP), has for some time now, recommended that parents familiarize themselves with the various social media outlets available to their children. The AAP encourages parents to monitor their kids’ internet usage as well as their instant messaging and texting. In a clinical report released today, however, the AAP is bringing pediatricians into the conversation. During school and camp check-ups, doctors should do some digging about their young patients’ social media habits. “The key, it seems, is to glean information without coming across as heavy-handed. So a doctor might casually ask, Do you have a cell phone? A Facebook account? How many friends — virtual ones, not in-the-flesh pals — do you have?” The reason for the recommendation is that more and more kids are spending the majority of their “social time” on the internet. Sexting and cyberbullying are some obvious concerns for parents, but a phenomenon known as “Facebook Depression” may not have crossed their minds. Ever-increasing time spent in front of the computer means less time spent with peers. Some children, as a result, can experience social isolation or low self-esteem, especially when in the company of other kids. Social standing is no longer measured solely by in-school popularity, but also by number of Facebook friends and postings on one’s Facebook wall. Pediatricians, therefore, should try to develop a robust diagnostic framework for their patients, one that includes all aspects of social interaction.
For parents, this is yet another wake-up call; an indication that modern day childhood, and particularly adolescence, is uncharted territory. Your kids likely know more about computers and the internet than you do, but you’ll have to keep a leash on them somehow. For investors, on the other hand, all signs point to a bullish Facebok IPO. Then again, it may just be a matter of time until Big Brother steps in and bans Facebook accounts for users under X years of age.