Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development awarded Linda Charmaraman, Ph.D, research associate at the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW), a $100,000 pilot grant to study parent and peer influences on social media use in early adolescence as well as the implications for psychosocial and behavioral health. Working with co-principal investigator Megan Moreno, M.D., M.P.H., academic division chief in General Pediatrics/Adolescent Medicine, and vice chair of Digital Health at the Children’s Hospital at University of Wisconsin, Madison, Charmaraman will collect data from middle school youth and their parents in the Greater Boston area. The primary objectives of this one-year study are to: (1) investigate the developmental processes of social media use during the pubertal transition to adolescence, highlighting factors that are likely to have explanatory power in understanding the relationships between social media use, social context, and psychosocial and behavioral health; (2) use multiple reporters on adolescent social media use in a mixed-method design utilizing matched parent-to-student survey and student social media site data; and (3) build theory on mechanisms for how, when, and why early initiation into social technologies co-occurs with behavioral health outcomes, moderated by peer and family influences.
The study findings will have implications for both parents and clinicians. Examining peer and parenting factors in social media initiation will guide recommendations for overseeing the youngest, most vulnerable users of social media. Both parents and clinicians alike will be able to use this research-based—rather than commerce-based—information to protect children in their care when making choices or providing rationale regarding the youths’ social media use. The impact of this work crosses the divide between academia and clinical practice, and results from this study may be used to design an educational intervention for a “beginner’s guide” to social media use and health, which will be highly beneficial for educators, counselors, practitioners, patients, and families.
The vision of Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development is to understand and address compelling questions regarding media’s impact on child development through interdisciplinary dialogue, public information, and rigorous, objective research bridging the medical, neuroscientific, social science, education and academic communities. Other members of the team include Jennifer Grossman, Ph.D., WCW research scientist; WCW Research Associates Ineke Ceder, Amanda Richer, M.A., and Diane Gruber, M.A.; Lisette DeSouza, Ph.D., WCW postdoctoral research scientist; and research assistants/Wellesley College students Rebecca Leu (Class of 2019), Katie Madsen (Class of 2019), and Nimo Suleyman (Class of 2020).