Should children and young people have access to the internet and social media while they are in hospital?
Social support during hospitalisation has always been a critical factor for children and young people. The rights of children and young people in healthcare have been enshrined in polices and standards developed by AWCH and other like minded organisations over many years.
Reducing feelings of isolation from friends and family members, especially for older children and teens is an important consideration. For older children, contact with school friends and access to facilities they may have at home (e.g. the internet) can also help normalise the hospital experience. This is important to reduce the possible negative effects associated with childhood hospitalisation.
The new technologies can provide young patients with increased access to family, peers and entertainment and have been shown to enhance communication and social connection. With internet access, children can also keep up with their school work.
Recent surveys about technology and social media have found that:
- 9 out of 10 children use the internet for educational purposes
- 46% of children use social media sites, with children in remote communities more likely to use social media sites
- Estimated monthly online time in 2009 was nearly 28 hours per month for Australian teens
- Over 200 million people access Facebook via their mobile phone
- The average user spends an average 15 hours and 33 minutes on Facebook per month
It is clear that the internet is a huge part of young lives. Arguably young people who do not have such access may be disadvantaged. Strategies that enable equitable access to the internet for children and young people during hospitalisation have the potential to reduce isolation and interruption to education.
Should access to these important technologies, which enable social connectedness, as well as educational opportunities, be available to all children and young people while they are in hospital?