The Academy was awarded a federal grant of up to $10 million to provide evidence-based education and technical assistance to support the mental health of children and adolescents as they navigate social media.
The grant will be used to launch the Center of Excellence: Creating a Healthy Digital Ecosystem for Children and Youth. The center will develop and disseminate information, guidance and training on the risks and benefits of social media use by children and youths, and examine clinical and social interventions to prevent and mitigate the risks.
The AAP will receive $2 million a year for up to five years from the Department of Health and Human Services through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
“With our deep expertise in both mental health and in digital technology, and with the growing crisis in child and adolescent mental health continuing to be an area of organizational focus, there could not be a more important time for AAP to help confront these challenges and use our voice to make needed change for children and adolescents,” AAP CEO/Executive Vice President Mark Del Monte, J.D., said in a statement.
The center will be led by Megan Moreno, M.D., M.S.Ed., M.P.H., FAAP, and Jenny Radesky, M.D., FAAP, co-authors of the Academy’s policies on media use by children and adolescents (see resources). Dr. Moreno’s research focuses on adolescent health and digital media, while Dr. Radesky’s research focuses on media use by younger children.
While there are benefits to social media use, mounting evidence shows that its use by children and teens can be harmful to their mental health and development, according to an advisory from the U.S. surgeon general. Social media use can exacerbate social isolation, anxiety, self-doubt and depression, and can enable harassment, stalking and cyberbullying.
The center’s goals include:
- disseminating evidence on the risks and benefits of social media use to improve children’s mental health;
- building the capacity of individuals who work with youths to mitigate social media’s negative impact on mental health and promote healthy social media use; and
- synthesizing the evidence base and best practices for healthy social media use.
The initiative is expected to include a multidisciplinary team of educators, clinicians, youths, parents, community representatives, researchers and industry representatives.
“Pediatricians have been alarmed for some time by the growing mental health crisis impacting children and adolescents, and we have much to understand about the role of social media in children’s healthy development,” AAP President Moira A. Szilagyi, M.D., Ph.D., FAAP, said in a statement. “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.”
If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, call or text the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 9-8-8 or visit https://988lifeline.org.
- AAP policy Media and Young Minds
- AAP policy Media Use in School-Aged Children and Adolescents
- AAP technical report Children and Adolescents and Digital Media
- AAP mental health initiatives
- Information for parents on safe media use from HealthyChildren.org
- Resources for parents from Common Sense Media