Stories about: Ask the Mediatrician

What should I know about the relationship between social media and suicide?

Michael RichQ: Yesterday one of my daughter’s friends committed suicide. She was a sophomore in college. I am saddened and angry. I went to the girl’s Facebook page and saw that she had 1,194 friends. All of her pictures show her with an impossibly bright smile. Her wall is full of messages sounding like, “I know we have only talked once, but you meant so much to me.”

I wonder if you have any advice or resources about the relationship between social media and depression/suicide. I need to educate myself and talk to my daughters and younger sons. I see a remarkable disconnect between their reality and how they appear on social media. I have always been annoyed by my daughter’s use of the word “friend” for someone she barely speaks with, and I dislike it when my children (and their peers) post pictures  where they are always partying, smiling, laughing, as if there was no other moment to share.

~ Saddened by suicide, USA

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Ask the Mediatrician: Should I worry about my teens texting?

Michael RichShould I worry about my teens texting, or is it similar to the time I spent talking to my friends on the phone when I was their age?

Q: I’ve noticed that many parents worry a lot about their children texting. But when we were kids, we would spend hours on the phone, sometimes not even talking much. When my teens are texting with friends at home, I liken it to those phone calls of yesteryear. I don’t allow texting during family meals or outings, but I am beginning to wonder if I should be worried about their texting. Is texting potentially problematic? Was that phone time even a potential problem for us back in the dinosaur days?

~ Ma Bell, USA

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When streaming music for my kids, how can I make sure the content is appropriate?

Michael Rich, MD, MPH

Michael Rich, MD, MPH, is Boston Children’s Hospital’s media expert and director of Boston Children’s Center on Media and Child Health. Send him a media-related parenting question via cmch@childrens.harvard.edu and follow him on Twitter @CMCH_Boston.

Q: We like to stream music from Pandora for my kids, who are in first and second grade. Pop dance music is fun and upbeat, and my children love it. But there is a big jump in maturity from Laurie Berkner and Kids Bop to Today’s Top Hits. And though there are lots of controls to set for Internet, TV, and movies, I can’t really find any for music. What are my monitoring options for streaming music?

-Mystified by Music

A: Dear Mystified,

Music is wonderful for kids! Whether they sing along or dance to the rhythm, music can engage them in melodies, develop language skills, and encourage them to move with imagination. You can share with them the music you love, and there is excellent music created especially for kids of different ages in terms of message, rhythm, and sing-along-ability.

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When and how should I introduce screens to my 2½ year old?

Michael Rich, MD, MPH, is Boston Children’s Hospital’s media expert and director of Boston Children’s Center on Media and Child Health. Send him a media-related parenting question via cmch@childrens.harvard.edu and follow him on Twitter @CMCH_Boston.

Michael Rich, MD, MPH

Q: I have a 2½ year old, and so far, per the advice of our pediatrician, she has had no screen time. However, I have heard that educational television, such as Sesame Street, can be useful to offer in small doses after the age of two. My inclination is to continue not to offer her screen time, as I am worried that she will want to spend lots of time in front of screens (television, iPad, phone, etc.), and right now she spends most of her day reading, doing puzzles, and in imaginary play. At what point does it make sense to introduce screen time, and in what manner?

-Mindful Mom, in Washington, DC

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