Facebook overuse can lead to psychological disorders in youth

Dr. Larry Rosen, a professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, has outlined the potential negative and positive effects of Facebook on youth.
Written by Emil Protalinski, Contributor

As Facebook's dominance continues to grow, we are starting to realize the impact it is having on society, particularly on youth. Dr. Larry Rosen, a professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, researches how technology impacts youth.

Over the weekend, Rosen presented his study at the 119th American Psychological Association convention in Washington DC. His findings are based on survey responses from computer-based surveys distributed to 1,000 urban adolescents and his own 15-minute observations of 300 teenagers that were studying.

"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," Rosen said. In a presentation titled "Poke Me: How Social Networks Can Both Help and Harm Our Kids," he said his research found both negative and positive influences linked to social networking.

Here are Rosen's top three potential negative effects of Facebook:

  • Teenagers who use Facebook more often show narcissistic tendencies while young adults who have a strong Facebook presence show more signs of other psychological disorders, including antisocial behaviors, mania, and aggressive tendencies.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Here are Rosen's top three potential positive effects of Facebook:

  • Young adults who spend more time on Facebook are better at showing "virtual empathy" to their online friends.
  • Online social networking can help introverted adolescents learn how to socialize behind the safety of various screens, ranging from a two-inch smartphone to a 17-inch laptop.
  • Social networking can provide tools for teaching in compelling ways that engage young students.

Rosen encouraged parents to assess their child's activities on social networks, and discuss removing inappropriate content or connections to people who appear problematic, but he said secretly watching their kids' activities online is pointless. Parents need to be aware of the online trends and the latest technologies, websites, and applications children are using, but not to be paranoid about them.

"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," Rosen said. "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. 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."

See also:

Editorial standards