A new study shows that social media is having a psychological effects on teenagers – the negative outweighing the benefits.
“While nobody can deny that Facebook has altered the landscape of social interaction, particularly among young people, we are just now starting to see solid psychological research demonstrating both the positives and the negatives,” said Larry D. Rosen, PhD, professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills.
The study showed that daily overuse of media and technology has a negative effect on the health of children, preteens and teenagers by making them more prone to anxiety, depression, and other psychological disorders, as well as by making them more susceptible to future health problems.
Even worse, studies found that middle school, high school and college students who checked Facebook at least once during a 15-minute study period achieved lower grades. The social medium negatively impacts learning, the study found.
Teenagers who use Facebook more often show more narcissistic tendencies while young adults who can show more signs of other psychological disorders, including antisocial behaviors, mania and aggressive tendencies.
In a presentation titled “Poke Me: How Social Networks Can Both Help and Harm Our Kids” at the 119th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association,Rosen presented his findings based on a number of computer-based surveys distributed to 1,000 urban adolescents and his 15-minute observations of 300 teens in the act of studying.
Rosen said new research has also found positive influences linked to social networking. Young adults who spend more time on Facebook are better at showing “virtual empathy” to their online friends. Online social networking can help introverted adolescents learn how to socialize behind the safety of various screens and can provide tools for teaching in compelling ways that engage young students.
What can parents do? Rosen offered guidance to parents, encouraging them to assess their child’s activities on social networking sites. How?
“Communication is the crux of parenting. You need to talk to your kids, or rather, listen to them,” Rosen said. “The ratio of parent listen to parent talk should be at least five-to-one. Talk one minute and listen for five.”
“If you feel that you have to use some sort of computer program to surreptitiously monitor your child’s social networking, you are wasting your time. Your child will find a workaround in a matter of minutes,” he said.
“You have to start talking about appropriate technology use early and often and build trust, so that when there is a problem, whether it is being bullied or seeing a disturbing image, your child will talk to you about it.”