According to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, the number of US adults who rank web safety and sexting as leading health concerns for children is rising. Specifically, 51% of adults ranked safety on the Internet as a serious health concern, and 45% tagged sexting as a significant health concern. The Hills’ Mario Trujillo writes that these two issues ranked fourth and sixth respectively. In 2014, Internet safety ranked eighth and sexting ranked 13th.
Problems such as childhood obesity, drug abuse, bullying, and child abuse ranked higher on the list of health concerns, but Internet safety and sexting ranked as more of a concern than smoking, school violence, teen pregnancy, and stress. For white adults, Internet safety ranked as the fourth strongest health concern. Hispanic adults ranked it at sixth place, and black adults ranked it ninth. White adults ranked sexting as sixth, Hispanic adults ranked it seventh, and for black adults, it did not rank in the top ten.
A Pew Research poll released last week found 57% of teens had made friends online and 55% text with friends on a daily basis. The poll found that 76% of teens use social media.
“The increasing level of concern about Internet safety and sexting that are now ranked even higher than smoking as major childhood health issues really dominates the story this year,” said Matthew M Davis, director of the National Poll on Children’s Health, who is also with the University of Michigan Health System.
Because of the ubiquity of smartphones and other technology, there is the potential that children and teens will be exposed to predators and could experience other problems like cyber-bullying. Sexting can lead to cases of teens suffering from low self-esteem and even committing suicide, according to India’s Mid-Day Infomedia.
Although black adults did not see sexting as a top ten health concern, they rated depression fourth, school safety fifth, and alcohol abuse as the seventh most important health concerns for children. For African American respondents, hunger climbed from the 15th spot to the 10th. Hispanics found child abuse and neglect to be the third highest concern, and all respondents ranked child abuse and neglect as fifth.
“We found that while the public may find benefits to today’s shifting media environment, whether through cellphones or other technology, many also recognize risks that may make young people vulnerable,” Davis said.
Other general childhood health concerns of US adults include: unsafe neighborhoods; alcohol abuse; sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS; depression; suicide; hunger; too few opportunities for physical activity; gun-related injuries; motor vehicle crashes; attention-deficit disorder; autism; medication safety; vaccine safety; infant death; and food allergies.
Robert Preidt, reporting for HealthDay, quotes Davis on how difficult it is to gauge a diverse population’s attitudes:
“We found that adults from different communities across the U.S. see the challenges of child health differently.”
Davis added that understanding the priorities of different communities will help protect children’s health and will assist young people in living the healthiest lives they can. The issues that people are most worried about nationwide should influence the initiatives on which health care providers, communities, and policy makers focus, stated Davis.