HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?
The perils of heavy Facebook use for teens
According to a recent report by the Pew Institute, 93% of teenagers have at least one Facebook account and spend and average 6 hours and 35 minutes per day using media and technology including text messages, video games, and Facebook. While not evil in and of itself, use of Facebook can have both negative and positive effects in teens.
Dr. Larry Rosen, Ph. D., professor of psychology, conducted a study on both the positives and negatives of social networking use. On the positive side, Dr. Rosen found that teens who were frequent social networking users are good at showing “virtual empathy” to their online friends. In addition, introverted teenagers find it easier to socialize behind the safety of the computer screen. Finally, teachers who use social networking in the classroom can engage a wider range of students as they are comfortable using that medium.
Conversely, Dr. Rosen listed several negative aspects of overuse of technology. First, teens who overuse Facebook often show more narcissistic tendencies. Many teens spend countless hours taking photos of themselves and posting them online. In addition, 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. Finally, 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.
What is important to consider is the overuse of technology. Teens who spend the majority of their time on video games and social networking are often missing out on other important activities in life such as exercise, reading, and face to face socializing. Another peril of technology overuse deals with forming attachments. Forming and maintaining attachments with others is a fundamental part of life, and teens who spend too much time with technology and not enough time attached with humans may lack communication skills, impulse control, compassion, resilience, and independence.
So what is a parent to do? Dr. Rosen stated that simply implementing a monitoring or blocking device on their child’s computer is not effective. Tech savvy teens will be able to find a way around the device. Instead, Rosen states that parents should start talking about appropriate technology use early. Building a trusting relationship with children will encourage them to talk to their parents when they see something inappropriate or witness bullying. Parents should assess technology use of their teens and develop guidelines for cutting down on use if there appears to be a problem. Above all, parenting teens is mostly about talking and listening. Rosen’s rule of thumb is the ratio between parent listen and parent talk is 5:1. For every one minute of talking, parents should listen for five.
Rockman, Bonnie. “Kids who Use Facebook do Worse in School.” Time Healthland, Aug 8, 2011. www.TIME.com.webarchive, February 19, 2012.
“Social Networking’s Good and Bad Impact on Kids.” American Psychological Association. August 6, 2011. http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2011/08/social-kids.aspxFebruary 19, 2012.