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Young Patients Connect on Social Media Sites

CancerWise - September 2007

By Dawn Dorsey

Young cancer patients are just like others their age, so it should come as no surprise they are jumping on the Internet to stay connected, learn about the disease and share their stories.

Social networking brings patients together

Many of them choose to participate in social networking Internet sites, also called social media sites. They offer user-submitted profiles, photos and videos, music and blogs (running commentaries by participants that allow for comments from readers).

Every site carries potential security risks and other computer-related issues. Parents and patients need to be aware of the options and the risks, so they can discuss them knowledgeably with their children.

Popular social networking sites include:

MySpace – A search for "cancer survivor" yields 14,800 entries. More than 80% of visits to social networking sites are here, including almost a quarter of a million new registrations each day. The minimum age to register an account is 14. Users can restrict their profiles to selected viewers.

Facebook – When Facebook began, membership was limited to Harvard University students. It expanded to other college students and now allows high school users. The viewing of detailed profile data is restricted to users from the same network or confirmed friends.

Hundreds of cancer survivors, support groups and organizations maintain pages.

YouTube – Visitors can upload, view and share video clips. Registration is not necessary to view most of the videos, but is required to upload videos. They run the gamut from silly to serious.

Several hospitals, including M. D. Anderson, also post videos.

Wikis – According to Wikipedia, an interactive online encyclopedia, a wiki is a "collaborative Internet site that can be directly edited by anyone with access to it."

Wikicancer – This wiki provides information and resources in a forum maintained and written by patients and survivors.

CarePages and CareFlash – These protected sites were created specifically for people in health care situations. Both have arrangements with many hospitals.

M. D. Anderson provides information about CarePages in admission packets. The Children's Cancer Hospital at M. D. Anderson works with CareFlash to provide pages for patients.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center