For decades kids were told that too much TV would "rot their brains." While the science behind that claim was probably never substantiated, some researchers believe that there's a new culptrit that could be doing a lot more damage than a childhood spent camped out in front of the television set.
Not surprisingly, it's the social media outlets like Facebook that have become the new target. Used properly, these sites can be useful tools, keeping friends and family in touch and allowing businesses to connect with their customers and make them aware of important developments.
However, according to Larry D. Rosen, PhD, professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, these outlets have "altered the landscape of social interaction," especially for young people. It's an effect, he says, that "nobody can deny."
"We are just now starting to see solid psychological research demonstrating both the positives and the negatives,” Rosen said during his 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 discussed potential adverse effects, including:
- Teens who 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.
- 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 and can negatively 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.
However, Rosen also said the research found positive influences linked to social networking, including:
- Young adults who spend more time on Facebook are better at showing “virtual empathy” to their online friends.
- It 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.
- It can provide tools for teaching in compelling ways that engage young students.
Rosen is one of many mental health professionals weighing in on the potential consequences of social media, and whether they outweigh the perceived benefits.
But, the question is likely to remain. Is Facebook only introducing kids and teenagers to a threat equal to what television has for years, or is there more to it? And do we really need to monitor this issue a lot more closely?
Tell us what you think.