How does social media affect our kids? Lawmakers push for research

08/14/2018 09:02 AM

By: Taylor Popielarz

According to the National Institutes of Health, not much is known about how media and technology affect young people. And if a partisan bill makes its way through Congress, tens of millions of dollars will be given to the institute to change that.

Technology and the media it leads us to is surrounding young people more than ever. That’s why many say it’s important to understand what impact all of those devices are having on kids. And a bipartisan group agrees.

“During childhood, there’s some very critical periods of brain development,” said Dr. Danielle Dooley, Children’s National Health System.

The Children and Media Research Advancement Act was introduced in late July and would give the National Institute of Health $95 million over five years to study how technology and media are affecting children from infancy through adolescence.

“Thinking about how to best use media and technology in the educational setting, where kids spend a lot of their time, I think is an area where we could learn a lot more to help benefit kids,” said Dooley. “But also to understand what might not be so good for them.”

It’s the fifth time a version of the bill has been introduced, but the last time was in 2007, just months before the iPhone was released. The NIH says it won’t comment on pending legislation but its director wrote about the need for more data in a letter responding to the senators who introduced the latest draft.

“‘With such high levels of exposure to technology and social networking, it is essential to understand the effects on child and youth well-being and development.”
– Francis Collins, Director, National Institutes of Health (June 2018)

American University professor Jason Mollica says more research can do wonders, but it will come with more responsibility.

“Once the numbers come out, it’s a matter of then parents, adults understanding how they then need to educate it and drop it into the classroom, in primary schools, in high school, and even holding some sort of educational training for kids so they understand the power of what goes on digitally and socially,” said Mollica.

The NIH Director also wrote in his letter that 92 percent of teenagers go online daily. A list of companies and organizations are supporting the latest bill, including Facebook and the Internet Association.

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