Facebook, texting, and instant messaging have both positive and negative psychological impacts on kids, teens, and young adults, according to Dr. Larry D. Rosen, author of the “Psychology of Technology”.
Dr, Rosen revealed his findings at the American Psychological Association 2011 meeting, outlining the results from his team’s computer-based surveys into the risks and benefits of social networking. However, he warned that the results only show an association between social networking and psychological tendencies, not cause and effect. In fact they’re still uncertain about what came first, the psychological traits or the use of social media.
His talk focused on the good and bad effects that social networks are having on teens. His findings are based on several computer-based surveys of more than 1,000 urban adolescents that included questions about computers, the Internet and social media use, as well as the use of mobile Internet devices and phone services like texting, and factors related to mental health.
Among the positive effects Rosen mentioned learning how to socialize, an asset particularly important among shy teens who would find very hard learning to communicate effectively with their peers otherwise. ”It’s helping us change in good ways, in ways that help young adults connect,” Rosen said. “We may not feel like we are [directly] communicating as much, but we are connecting more.” Facebook and other social networks promote healthy social relationships, an important step in teenage development, by teaching teens empathy, or the ability to understand someone else’s feelings, he said. Spending time in these digital social networks and connecting with other people teaches young adults digital empathy, which can spill over into the real world.
Another positive aspect of Facebook according to Dr. Rosen is that if properly used it can provide very powerful tools that can aid in teaching in compelling ways that engage young students.
But Facebook has an almost equal share of negative traits. Teens who use Facebook have been found at higher risk of showing narcissistic tendencies and other various mental issues, including lack of empathy, increased aggression and traits associated with mental illnesses like schizophrenia and depression.
It was also observed that online social networking seems to negatively affect a teen’s learning and grades. He noticed that kids who most frequently had Facebook open on their computers had the lowest retention of what they read. Rosen suggested that by allowing kids to take two-minute “tech breaks” to check their messages and notifications after 15 minutes of studying, it could help them to focus for longer and would prevent social networking from having a negative effects on academics.
Dr. Larry D. Rosen ended his talk at the American Psychological Association meeting presenting some tips and tricks on parenting “digital natives.” He embraces the TALK model of parenting: Trust, Access, Learn, “K”ommunicate. ”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 said. When talking with your kids, sit on the floor so you’re on the same level, he advises. “Then, you talk for 5 minutes and they talk for 15 minutes.”