- Jennifer Middleton, MD, MPH
Counseling at well child visits about media use can easily fall by the wayside with so many other important topics to discuss. Our office's electronic health record (EHR) has several template options to choose from for well child exams that each include age-appropriate anticipatory guidance topics, but none of them, at any age, include media use. Adding that prompt may become imperative, especially given the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) Use of Media by School-Aged Children and Adolescents guideline. A recent AFP issue reviewed this new guideline and reminds us of the importance of making time to discuss media use with families.
The AAP encourages physicians to screen for problems related to media use, such as sexting, cyberbullying, problematic internet use, and Internet gaming disorder, in children and adolescents. A recent survey of Texas high schoolers found that 28% of adolescents had texted a naked picture of themselves ("sexting"); in this study, teen girls who sexted were at higher risk of engaging in high risk sexual behavior. The authors of this study suggest asking all teens if they have ever sent, received, or been asked to text a naked picture and also note that the majority of teens are quite uncomfortable with participating in sexting.
The AFP review of this guideline notes that cyberbullying can bring "social, academic, and health concerns" for both the victim and the bully. Several validated scales for screening both bullying victims and perpetrators can be found in this CDC document; although none explicitly mention social media use, several questions are vague enough to potentially include cyberbullying.
Validated scales do exist for screening for problematic internet use and Internet gaming disorder. The 18-item Problematic and Risky Internet Use Screening Scale (PRIUSS) can help identify adolescents and adults with problematic internet use. Many adolescents and young adults with problematic internet use also have depression, social anxiety, and/or attention deficit disorder, so a positive PRIUSS should prompt exploration of these other possible diagnoses. The Internet Gaming Disorder Test (IGDT-10) is a 10 question screen for Internet gaming disorder.
Besides screening for these 4 conditions, the AAP encourages physicians to discuss boundary setting regarding places and times where media use is and is not appropriate. Parents should role model appropriate media use, such as keeping electronic devices (including televisions) outside of the bedroom. Parents also should discuss online safety with their children, though some parents feel unprepared to do so; the AAP has a list of tips for parents here. There's also an AFP By Topic on Health Maintenance and Counseling that includes additional resources for well child (and adult) visits.
No data yet exists showing that screening for these conditions positively influences any patient-centered outcomes, but their associations with mental illness and risky behaviors is convincing enough for me to incorporate them into my well child visits. I'm going to get started by asking our EHR leadership to add "media use" to our anticipatory guidance templates. What step will you take to facilitate conversations about media use with families?