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Social media and other kinds of media have positive and negative effects on children and adolescents. ‘We need to help youth learn how to make media a part of their life – but not their entire life.’ This is one of the main conclusions of the new book Plugged in, authored by UvA communication scientists Patti Valkenburg and Jessica Piotrowski and published by Yale University Press. The book will be available in bookshops as from 8 June and can be downloaded for free as an open access publication.

P. Valkenburg

Valkenburg and Piotrowski examine the role of media in the lives of children from birth through adolescence, addressing the complex issues of how media affect the young and what adults can do to encourage responsible use in an age of selfies, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. ‘We have seen that complex games can increase teens’ cognitive skills. And we have seen that social media – when used in a healthy way – can help adolescents build their self-esteem, enhance their peer relationships, and shape their identities’, says Piotrowski. ‘But here too there are risks – for some youth, the use of social media can have important downsides such as cyberbullying, stranger danger and sexual risk behaviour.’

Too much of a good thing

The authors argue that ‘there is such a thing as too much of a good thing’ when it comes to children’s and teens’ media use, especially when it involves excessive media multitasking, compulsive gaming or social media use. ‘We need to help youth learn how to make media a part of their life, but not their entire life. In our always-on, always-plugged-in culture, this will be a key challenge for parents and youth, and for us all’, says Valkenburg.

The book was published in the United States in April and will be available in Europe as from 8 June. Valkenburg and Piotrowski will officially present their book in the Netherlands on 15 June.