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Parents’ biggest concerns revealed as kids head back to school

With kids preparing to go back to school this fall, the biggest concerns among parents have been revealed.

Social media and internet use have climbed high on parents’ list of concerns, a University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health reported.

Two-thirds of parents were concerned about how much time children were spending on devices such as smartphones. Concerns included their overall screen times and social media use while on devices.

Over half of the 2,099 parents who participated in the poll were also concerned about mental health issues among children and teens.

Concerns around mental health issues and social media surpassed obesity.

A stock photo shows a dad taking his sons to school. A poll has revealed what parents in the U.S. are most concerned about.
Elena Medoks/Getty

“Parents still view problems directly impacting physical health, including unhealthy eating and obesity, as important children’s health issues. But these have been overtaken by concerns about mental health, social media and screen time,” Mott Poll co-director and Mott pediatrician Susan Woolford, said in a press release.

“Children are using digital devices and social media at younger ages, and parents may struggle with how to appropriately monitor use to prevent negative impacts on safety, self-esteem, social connections and habits that may interfere with sleep and other areas of health.”

Screen time among children may have become a bigger concern for parents following the pandemic, when devices were being used a lot more frequently.

Parents were concerned about the lack of mental health services available to children who may be suffering from depression, anxiety, stress, suicide or bullying.

Screen time and mental health were not the only concerns cited by parents in the nationwide poll.

Worries around violent instances at schools were also high on the list, which may be in the wake of an increase in school shootings.

“The mismatch between the growing number of youth with mental health concerns and the limited access to mental health services has serious implications for children’s well-being. Parents may want to talk with their child periodically about how safe they feel at school and what they’ve heard about violent incidents,” Woolford said. “They should tailor the information to their child’s age and avoid sharing graphic details while offering reassurance about safety measures that their school has in place.”

Participants from low-income households were more concerned about mental health issues, whereas those from higher-income households were more concerned around screen time and social media.

“Differences in how parents view children’s health problems may reflect their day-to-day experiences dealing with environmental challenges such as unsafe neighborhoods, as well as discrimination that may be more frequently experienced by children from low-income homes. Today’s school-aged children have experienced dramatic shifts in classroom environments, technology norms and increased mental health challenges,” Woolford said.

“Parents should partner with schools, mentors and their child’s health care providers to address both ongoing and emerging health concerns. They should also regularly revisit conversations with their children and teens that encourage them to share any concerns they might be experiencing, both physically and emotionally.”

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