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Social networking good and bad: Psychologists offer guide for parents

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Kids and social networking

Psychologists have been studying the risks and benefits of social media for kids, and can now offer insight for parents from research that they say uncovers both good and bad aspects. Scientists from the American Psychological Association say they now have solid research showing how Facebook, Twitter and other social media might impact children, teens and young adults.

Monitoring kids’ online social activity a waste of time

Though it may be counterintuitive, Larry D. Rosen, PhD, professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, says parents who try to monitor a child’s social networking activities are just wasting their time. Rosen says children will quickly find ways around parental monitoring “in a matter of minutes”.

Instead, he suggests…”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.”

Rosen also says t’s still important to assess what kids are doing online. Have an open discussion about removing inappropriate content or blocking friends online who are problematic.

“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."

Social networking could affect kids’ health

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Health might be a concern for kids who spend too much time cavorting with “virtual” friends. Inactivity alone makes children prone to health issues as adults. Children, adolescents and teenager can become depressed and anxious from too much time spent on social media and technology.

The psychologist says teens that spend too much time on Facebook may have strong narcissistic tendencies. Young adults that spend a lot of time on social sites might be aggressive or display antisocial tendencies and mania.

Studies show high school and college students who checked Facebook even once during a 15-minute study period had lower grades. Social networking can hinder learning.

Positive effects of social networking

Social sites don’t always spell trouble for kids though, says Rosen, who explains networking online can elicit “virtual” empathy for friends, help socially shy children interact with others and provide engaging tools for teaching.

The bottom line is parents should make an effort to ask kids what they’re doing online. Snooping won’t work, because children are too savvy and will thwart parental attempts at monitoring.

Sites like Facebook have a good and a bad side for children, teens and young adults, which are now backed by solid research. Parents should remain aware of social media, keep up with technology and maintain open dialogue with children about Facebooking or Twittering. The findings were presented at the 119th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association.

Updated 8/31/2014