Infectious Disease

Youth report greater social media mindfulness, communication following PCP counseling

August 23, 2023

3 min read

Source/Disclosures

Disclosures:
Moreno and colleagues report no relevant financial disclosures.

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Key takeaways:

  • PCPs who received social media counseling were more likely to advise their young patients about safety behaviors.
  • Patients said they remembered lessons from their PCPs 6 months later.

Children and adolescents who received social media counseling from trained primary care physicians reported reductions in unsafe social media behaviors and greater communication with parents, a recent study found.

“This study idea arose from the voices of pediatricians within the AAP,” Megan A. Moreno, MD, MSEd, MPH, a professor in the department of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, told Healio. “They shared that they understood that social media was becoming more important in the lives of teens. Pediatricians wanted to know what they needed to know, and what kind of counseling would be effective. So, the study was designed to test both the role of the pediatrician, and the impact on patients.”

In May, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, MD, MBA released an advisory urging for greater actions to ensure safer social media use among children and adolescents. Despite such calls to action, Moreno and colleagues noted that PCPs lack training on social media counseling.

“A study of pediatric residents found that only 5% felt they had adequate training on media use and children,” they wrote in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

To improve training within clinical settings, the researchers conducted a cluster randomized control trial that exposed PCPs to either a social media counseling intervention (SCMI) or a tobacco cessation intervention, which served as an active control group.

In the SCMI, PCPs were given an online safety brochure and learned about concepts such as balancing offline and online time, being mindful when posting content and ensuring youth and parents communicate about online experiences.

The researchers enrolled 120 primary care practices and 249 PCPs between 2011 to 2013. Of the PCPs, 88% were pediatricians and 12% were nurse practitioners or physician assistants.

The analysis also included 1,937 pediatric patients who were selected for follow up, 992 of whom completed a 6-month interview after the intervention.

Moreno and colleagues found that PCPs in the SCMI group were more likely to report social media counseling (beta = 1.43; 95% CI, 1.1-1.7), and SCMI training was linked to higher odds of an adolescent receiving any social media counseling (OR = 4.94; 95% CI, 3.83-6.37).

Compared with youth whose PCPs were given a tobacco cessation intervention, youth whose PCP received the SMCI were:

  • twice as likely to report a decrease in online “friending” of strangers (adjusted OR = 2.23; 95% CI, 1.17-4.25);
  • more likely to report communication with their parents or caregivers about social media use (aOR = 1.2; 95% CI, 1.1-1.4); and
  • more likely to report that their caregiver set rules for social media use (aOR = 1.2; 95% CI, 1-1.3).

At 6 months, youth said they remembered lessons from the PCP counseling, possibly “given the relevance and significance of social media to youth,” the researchers wrote.

Moreno said that it was exciting to find the positive association of communication between youth and parents.

“This was an ideal outcome for this type of study, as we know that parents can play an important role in supporting and guiding their children’s social media experiences,” she said.

She also noted that pediatricians “felt more confident and knowledgeable talking about social media with their patients.”

“We hope that the training involved in this study will impact those pediatricians even beyond the study period,” she added.

There were several limitations to the study, according to the researchers. For example, the data were self-reported, potentially resulting in bias, and the study sample for SCMI may not have been representative of the U.S. youth population.

Still, “for PCPs, this study supports the importance of their role in helping families center on the importance of media in children’s lives and health,” Moreno said. “The training for PCPs was well received and the study suggests it can have a big impact for pediatrician practices and patient outcomes.”

The next steps for this research will include implementing AAP’s Family Media Plan, an online resource families can use to set rules and guidelines on social media, into pediatrician counseling “to see if this enhances the outcomes,” Moreno said.

References:

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