Kids’ Internet safety is a growing concern
Childhood obesity, bullying and drug abuse remain the top three children’s health concerns for adults this year, but Internet safety and “sexting” rose in importance, according to a national poll conducted by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Researchers randomly polled nearly 2,000 adults 18 years old and older across the U.S.
Internet safety rose from eighth place to fourth place, while sexting climbed from 13th to sixth, reflecting a growing concern over children’s access to new media and technology. These issues displaced smoking and school violence from 2014’s top concerns.
“These results demonstrate a growing awareness of the effect of technology on our children and teens,” says Dr. Tiffany Groen, family medicine physician at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill. “While technology has many positive benefits, we need to work with our children to ensure they are using their phones, tablets and other devices safely and responsibly.”
Researchers found that when they rephrased the questions and provided information about the number of children affected by problems such as hunger and infant mortality, more respondents identified them as a “big problem.”
There were disparities between different racial groups. While childhood obesity was the biggest concern for white and Hispanic adults, black adults ranked bullying as number one. Further, black adults ranked depression and school violence in their top five concerns, while internet safety ranked ninth, and sexting did not appear in the top 10 at all. In contrast, neither Hispanic nor white adults ranked depression in their top concerns.
“Children and teens today face a lot of serious public health issues and this survey makes clear that they can vary greatly from one community to the next,” said Dr. Groen. “Obesity and bullying remain a high priority for all and it is vital we continue to address them, but we need to make sure we are reaching all of our patients and listening carefully to what’s going on in their lives and those of their children.”
Other concerns rated as a “big problem” by survey respondents included unsafe neighborhoods, alcohol abuse, sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS, depression, suicide, hunger, not enough opportunities for physical activity, gun-related injuries and motor vehicle accidents.
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