Madison doctor to lead national research center on youth social media use

A UW Health Kids doctor will serve as one of the co-medical directors of the newly formed National Center of Excellence on Social Media and Youth Mental Health.
Published: Sep. 15, 2022 at 6:18 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A UW Health Kids doctor will serve as one of the co-medical directors of the newly formed National Center of Excellence on Social Media and Youth Mental Health.

UW Health Dr. Megan Moreno will help run the research center with a goal to create tools parents can use to navigate the ever-evolving digital world.

Dr. Moreno plans to use 15 years of research already completed and combine it with new studies as social media continues to have a positive and negative impact on children’s mental health.

She said researchers will tackle online algorithms which could be dangerous for children. When children start using social media, data can be tracked so the algorithm updates and shows people what it thinks they want to see.

”If you are an early user of TikTok and you happen to look up some risky behaviors, that means that the algorithm is going to keep feeding those to you. That’s kind of a newer issue that we’re seeing, with how highly sophisticated the algorithms are,” Dr. Moreno said.

She also plans to look into parenting tactics during the digital age. She said the way adults use social media themselves can impact their children’s mental health.

“Another really interesting thing that we’re hearing from kids as well as teens is that they’re struggling to try and navigate their parents social media use,” Dr. Moreno said. “So how do they get their parent’s attention when their parent is stuck on Instagram? How do they have a conversation with their parents about what they are and are not comfortable with their parents sharing?”

The Department of Health and Human Services provided $10 million in funding for the new research center through a five-year grant.

Before the research center creates new tools for parents, Dr. Moreno said families should use the American Academy of Pediatrics website to create a media plan in the meantime.