New Research Examines Social Media Use in Pediatric Patients With Cancer

April 6, 2021

Faculty from the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at UPMC Children's, along with collaborators from the University of Pittsburgh Social Media and SGM Mental Health Initiative, and the University of Pittsburgh Center for Behavior Health, Media, and Technology Medicine, will present findings of new research on social media use in adolescents and young adults with cancer at the upcoming Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual conference in May.

Lead author Hanna Reuman, MD, a resident physician in the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, will present the research. Division faculty Scott H. Maurer, MD, and James Felker, MD, mentored Dr. Reuman on the study. Also collaborating on the study was University of Pittsburgh undergraduate student Katherine Kerr.

This is the first study of its kind to examine social media use in adolescents and young adults with cancer.

Research Overview

The new research assessed social media in a cohort of adolescents and young adults with cancer aged 16-26. Although clinicians are aware that many of their patients use social media, very little is known about how or even if their cancer diagnosis affects their use of social media. The new research discovered that patients use social media for many hours each day, parents of patients are not routinely monitoring their use of social media, and these patients are talking about having cancer on social media.  

Participants in the study noted mostly positive interactions with social media – noting a sense of support and community through their interactions on various platforms.  Alarmingly, about a fifth of the study population noted they had been bullied online related to their cancer diagnosis. 

“These findings create an opportunity for pediatric oncology clinicians to provide education and anticipatory guidance for their patients so that they may benefit from social media while avoiding the pitfalls associated with the use of these communications platforms,” says Dr. Maurer.

Individuals attending PAS who are interested in this poster session can read the full abstract and register for the online session using the following information:

PAS 2021: Social Media & Technology: Highlighted e-Posters
251 - Positive and Negative Social Media Experiences of Adolescents and Young Adults with Cancer
Sunday, May 2, 2021 6:15 PM – 7:15 PM US CT
e-Poster with Chat Q&A; Poster Board #: 251; Publication #: 2913-HP-QA.251
Hannah Reuman, MD
Resident Physician, UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh