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The two faces of social networking for kids

by Colin Ricketts 08 Aug 2011
The two faces of social networking for kids

There is both good and bad in the explosion of social media use by the young say psychologists who say parents are wasting their time if they try and snoop on their children's online activities.

The research was presented to the 119th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association in a talk by Larry D Rosen PhD, professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills called "Poke Me: How Social Networks Can Both Help and Harm Our Kids."

The bad news according to Rosen is that teenagers who use Facebook are more often narcissistic and young adults who use the site heavily are more likely to suffer psychological disorder like antisocial behaviours, mania and aggressive tendencies. Overuse of hi-tech media is bad for their health too, encouraging depression and anxiety among other mental health problems. And, it seems that it can affect grades too, with those who looked at their Facebook pages during study periods getting lower grades.

On the plus side, youngsters do learn to show "virtual empathy" as they use Facebook. Social networking sites can also help bring introverted adolescents out of their shell and when used to educate social networks can engage youngsters in learning.

Rosen says parent shouldn't snoop though, saying: "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.

"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."

Talking about technology use is the best way to learn if kids are getting into trouble on line Rosen said.

"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."

Top Image Credit: © kentoh


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