Sexting, internet safety among top child health concerns in US

Washington: Sexting and internet safety have quickly climbed higher on the public's list of major health concerns for children across the US, a new survey has found.

Compared with 2014, Internet safety rose from the eighth to the fourth biggest problem, ahead of school violence and smoking, in the 2015 annual survey of top children's health concerns conducted by the CS Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health in US.

Sexting - sending and receiving sexually suggestive text messages and photos - saw the biggest jump, now the sixth top-ranked issue, up from thirteenth, according to the survey which asked US adults to rate their concerns for kids' health.

Childhood obesity, bullying, and drug abuse remained the top three child health concerns for a second year in a row, while child abuse and neglect ranked fifth.

Smoking and tobacco use, usually rated near the top of the list, dropped from the fourth top concern to the seventh - which may reflect the decline in smoking and tobacco use by youth in recent years.

"The increasing level of concern about Internet safety and sexting that are now ranked even higher than smoking as major childhood health issues really dominates the story this year," said Matthew M Davis, director of the National Poll on Children's Health, who is also with the University of Michigan Health System.

Expanding use of smartphones and other technology potentially exposes children and teens to the danger of predators and other harms like cyber-bullying.

Sexting has also led to cases of teens around the country suffering from low self-esteem and even committing suicide following photos being widely shared among peers.

Sexting and Internet safety, however, were not as high on the list for African American adults, who rated depression fourth, school safety fifth and alcohol abuse as the seventh highest childhood health concerns.

Hunger climbed from the 15th spot in 2014 to the tenth biggest childhood health concern among African American respondents in 2015.

While white, African American and Hispanic respondents all list childhood obesity and bullying in the top three child health issues, Hispanics list child abuse and neglect as the 3rd highest health concern for kids across the US.

Overall, the public viewed child abuse and neglect as the fifth major health concern.

Other child health concerns rated as a "big problem" in 2015 for children and teens across the US included unsafe neighbourhoods (40 per cent), alcohol abuse (39 per cent), sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS (38 per cent), depression (38 per cent), suicide (37 per cent), hunger (34 per cent), not enough opportunities for physical activity (31 per cent) and gun-related injuries (30 per cent).

The list also included motor vehicle accidents (30 per cent), attention deficit disorder (26 per cent), autism (24 per cent), safety of medications (17 per cent) safety of vaccines (15 per cent) infant mortality (13 per cent) and food allergies (13 per cent).

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