August 8, 2011

Facebook: Good and Bad for Kids?

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Ever wonder how all that time spent on Facebook is affecting your child? A new study shows social media may offer risks and benefits for kids.

At the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, researchers presented a plenary talk that outlined the effects of social media. "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," Larry D. Rosen, Ph.D., professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, was quoted as saying.

The researchers found teens that use Facebook more often show more narcissistic tendencies, while young adults who have a strong Facebook presence show more signs of other psychological disorders, including antisocial behaviors, mania and aggressive tendencies. They also found Facebook can be distracting and can negatively affect learning. Students who checked Facebook at least once during a 15-minute study period achieved lower grades. Daily overuse of media and technology also had a negative effect on children's health, making them more prone to anxiety, depression and other psychological problems.

On the flipside, the investigators discovered that young adults who spend more time on Facebook are better at showing "virtual empathy" to their online friends, and online social networking can help introverted kids learn how to socialize. The researchers also say social networking can provide tools for teaching in ways that engage young students.

However, the researchers say parents should not secretly monitor their child's online activity. "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," Dr. Rosen 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."

Dr. Rosen encourages parents to assess their child's activities on  social networking sites and discuss removing inappropriate content.

SOURCE:  119th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association