The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Center of Excellence (CoE): Creating a Healthy Digital Ecosystem for Children and Youth leverages AAP’s expertise in pediatric health, vast national reach, and 90+ years of experience in education, research translation, and capacity building to engage a diverse national audience of youth, parents, educators, and clinicians in efforts to promote healthy social media use and pediatric mental wellbeing. AAP brings a unique developmental perspective to this work: social media engagement starts in early childhood and continues through adolescence, where algorithms and marketing-driven incentives shape the content youth consume and share, impacting their online experience and mental health. Growing evidence has established both risks and benefits to social media use: imbalances in these risks and benefits can harm mental health, exacerbate existing health disparities, and compound systemic inequities for youth. The CoE will serve as a centralized, trusted source for evidence-based education and technical assistance to support youth mental health as they navigate social media. The CoE will reach a national audience of millions of stakeholders each year; this audience will include children and adolescents, parents and families, educators and school personnel, clinicians (e.g., physicians, allied health, mental health providers), technology industry representatives, and others; demographics of this population will reflect national trends.
The CoE’s overarching goals are to: 1) improve youth’s mental wellbeing by reducing the risks and leveraging the benefits of social media, 2) build the capacity of individuals who work with youth to mitigate social media’s impact on mental wellbeing and promote healthy social media use, and 3) synthesize and promote the evidence base and best practices for healthy social media use via communication, guidance, and other resources. These goals will be reached through 9 objectives: 1) Launch a comprehensive CoE website, 2) Engage a Technical Expert Panel (TEP) and Youth Advisory Panel, 3) Utilize an interactive Q&A portal, 4) Develop educational and technical assistance opportunities, 5) Utilize case studies and case consultation, 6)Engage diverse stakeholders in learning communities, 7) Implement formative research, 8)Collaborate with federal research agencies, and 9) Collaborate with other federal partners.
The CoE will maintain a key focus on equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in the creation and dissemination of content and resources and will meaningfully engage a wide range of voices, perspectives, and life experiences. The CoE will be guided by expert Medical Directors, a cross-sectoral TEP composed of educators, clinicians, youth, parent/community representatives, researchers, and industry representatives, and a diverse Youth Advisory Panel whose members will participate in the creation of content and activities.
The CoE will disseminate evidence around the risks and benefits of social media use and expand and translate the growing field of research around actionable solutions to protect youth mental health online, including family media plans, privacy protections, open communication with trusted adults, and mental health supports. This work will leverage AAP’s reputation as the trusted national voice for pediatric health and will utilize the Academy’s extensive education, research, communications, and partnership capacities to reach a broad national audience of millions of stakeholders each year. AAP is uniquely positioned to create a national CoE that can effectively advance the individual, clinical, community, and societal shifts needed to build healthy digital ecosystems that protect pediatric mental wellbeing online.