Is social media the worst thing to happen to teenagers since rock music? Probably not, concludes Psychology professor.
Larry D. Rosen is a professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hill. According to his bio on the California State website, “Over the past 25 years, Dr. Rosen and his colleagues have examined reactions to technology among more than 30,000 children, teens, college students, parents, business managers, secretaries, school teachers, and university administrators in the United States and in 23 other countries.” He has also authored several books, including iGeneration and the Way They Learn, publishing by Palgrave Macmillan in 2010. However at the 199th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Rosen turned his attention to social media.
Dr. Rosen gave a talk titled “Poke Me: How Social Networks Can Both Help and Harm Our Kids.” The theme of his talk was whether or not youth are positively or negatively impacted by social media use. His conclusion was that the effects are mixed: “While nobody can deny that Facebook has altered the landscape of social interaction, particularly among young people, we are just now starting to see solid psychological research demonstrating both the positives and the negatives.”
According to the talk, the possible negative impacts of social media are broad. Dr. Rosen suggested that teens who use Facebook tend to show more narcissistic tendencies and young adults who are prominent Facebook users show more signs of antisocial behaviour and aggressive tendencies. He also noted that overuse of technology can negatively impact the health of children and youth; it can make them prone to anxiety and depression.
Before you go and delete your child’s Facebook account, Dr. Rosen noted that social networking isn’t all bad. Youth who spend time on Facebook are better at demonstrating “virtual empathy. Moreover, social networking can help introverts learn to socialize, and social media and social networks can be used as useful teaching tools.
Unsurprisingly Dr. Rosen noted that: “Communication is the crux of parenting. You need to talk to your kids, or rather, listen to them… The ratio of parent listen to parent talk should be at least five-to-one. Talk one minute and listen for five.” As such, his advice is that parents need to take a balanced approach to social media user amongst youth, “”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”. He continued, “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.”
While his suggestions are sound, and his revelations about the impact of social media on youth useful in its balanced approach, it’s hard not to think: so, what? Does it matter if social networking is good or bad for youth? They are using it anyways, and as with all technological advances, once it exists, there is no going back. Perhaps, the question that parents, researchers, and academics need to ask is not “is social media good or bad for youth?” but “how can social media and social networking be used so that it is positive for youth?”