Is social media good or bad for kids?

Posted by David Gomez

As you probably already know, social networking can be either good or bad for kids. But if you secretly conduct preventive surveillance over your child’s social media, you might be wasting your time.

"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.
    
Rosen gave a talk at the 119th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association titled "Poke Me: How Social Networks Can Both Help and Harm Our Kids."

In his presentation Rosen detailed the possible damaging effects of social media, which are:

  • Teens who use Facebook more often show more narcissistic tendencies while young adults who have a strong Facebook presence display more signs of other psychological disorders, including antisocial behaviors, mania and aggressive tendencies. 
  • Daily overuse of media and technology has a negative effect on the health of all 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.
  • Facebook can be distracting andnegatively impact learning. 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.

 

Still, before you freak out about social media, just know that Rosen also said that new research has also identified some good stimuli that are linked to social networking like:
 

  • 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, ranging from a two-inch smartphone to a 17-inch laptop.
  • Social networking can provide tools for teaching in compelling ways that engage young students.

 

Rosen also took a minute to offer his professional advice to parents: "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."

He suggested parents judge the appropriateness of their child’s activities on social networking portals, and talk about removing unacceptable content or connections to people who might offer a bad influence. In the digital age parents should spend time becoming familiar with the latest online trends and technologies along with the websites and applications children are using, he said.  

"Communication is the crux of parenting. You need to talk to your kids, or rather, listen to them... The ratio of parent listen to parent talk should be at least five-to-one. Talk one minute and listen for five."

Taken as a whole, social networking impacts children in ways that most people would expect it to. The biggest question the study leaves us with is: How much different is virtual empathy from real life empathy? And how is the development of virtual feelings different from the development of real feelings in general?

At the very least, this research presentation could be used a foundation for more detailed research on the impact that social networking has on the human condition.