Kids and social networking: Pros and cons
August 6th, 2011
04:00 PM ET

Kids and social networking: Pros and cons

Post this, comment on that. Social media are a part of the daily routines of many adults and children. And  the identifiable pros and cons of social networking among kids are beginning to emerge, according to a presentation at the American Psychological Association meeting.

"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," said Larry D. Rosen, Ph.D., professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, and technology researcher.

Rosen says ongoing research and preliminary results of studies suggest a few trends in kids.

On the plus side: In a world full of distractions, social networking and technology can provide tools for teaching in a way that engages and captivates young minds. Online social networking can also help young people learn how to socialize with their peers; users also show more "virtual empathy."

"It's almost like social networks are training wheels for life in a lot of ways - it teaches you to express empathy and see how people respond," Rosen said. "It teaches you to also just develop your sense of self of who you are. You float things out on a wall post on Facebook and then sit back and look at the comments that you get. It's a place where you can grow and develop."

However, the downside is becoming apparent, too. According to studies, middle school, high school and college students looking at Facebook at least one time during a 15-minute study break made lower grades. In addition, many young Facebook users show more tendencies to be narcissistic.

"It's a continual onset of I, me, mine," he said. "Your comments back and forth to people all reflect on you, not them."

The new research suggests that overuse of media and technology can negatively affect health of children and teens, especially with psychological disorders- making users more likely to experience anxiety and depression.

"Everything you do on social networks, you're doing behind the safety of a screen," he said. "You're not paying attention...there's a real flesh and blood human being at the other end of cyberspace and your words might have consequences for that person."

Rosen suggests not having a computer program to monitor the child's social networking behaviors. He says parents who have such programs are wasting their time.

"As soon as you start monitoring your kids electronically, two things are going to happen," he said. "One- they are going to stop trusting you. Two- within five seconds, they'll find a workaround on the Internet to get around whatever electronic device you have installed."

"If you establish trust with your kids, which you do by having discussions with them about technology and about what they're doing, then they will come to you when something comes up that they're uncomfortable with," Rosen said.

But he says parents need to be aware of the latest technologies and trends in websites and applications that kids use.

Dr. Bryan Vartabedian, assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas and attending physician at Texas Children's Hospital, writes often about social media.

"As a parent, probably the best thing we can do for our teens is try to provide a solid example of how to balance our personal and our digital lives," Vartabedian said. "I think this technology is all here to stay. It's not going anywhere but the relationship that we share with that technology is something that we can influence and we can influence early on in life."

Vartabedian says it is OK to put software on a computer to monitor social networking. He says parents have a responsibility to know what their kids are doing.

"There will always be ways for kids to get around what we do to watch and listen to them," he said. "But we still have a responsibility as parents to put our best foot forward and openly discuss what's appropriate, online and off."

What are your thoughts?

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soundoff (388 Responses)
  1. David

    My wife and I used to monitor our kids Facebook accounts everyday by logging in and reading everything they posted or others posted. We found a great service called Social Web Watch (www.socialwebwatch.com) and it monitors all our kids accounts and report issues back to us automatically. It found things we didn't even know about. Great service and we would recommend it to everyone.... all our friends are using it now too.

    August 6, 2011 at 16:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Josh

      Nothing like being responsible parents.

      August 8, 2011 at 08:18 | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Comments by people like Sam are usually made by "give up" parents who are not willing to put in the time and effort to watch out for their kids.

      August 8, 2011 at 08:25 | Report abuse |
    • Jerome

      Comments by people like Bob are usually made by "give up" parents who are not willing to put in the time and effort to develop a trusting relationship with their kids. Once your kids find out that you are wiretapping them, you're going regret your decision. And trust me, they will find out and they will never forget it. You can't keep watching them forever, instead you should develop their skills as a decision maker. Give them some of their own tools to use.

      August 8, 2011 at 22:51 | Report abuse |
    • Jennifer

      Thank you Jerome, and yes we do need some monitoring but wiretapping us is crossing the line and we will more than likely hate you for it because we are growing and need some privacy and you can't watch us forever so leave us alone so that we can learn to take some responsibility for ourselves so that we can grow up.

      August 28, 2011 at 21:42 | Report abuse |
    • John

      You are all very strict parents and need to lay off. Teenagers especially boys need space and freedom. If you dont want your kids getting into bad things, watching there every move will not do it. infact it will make them want to rebel. Trust me im a psychologist.

      January 17, 2012 at 21:00 | Report abuse |
    • John

      Trust me imma docta.

      January 17, 2012 at 21:05 | Report abuse |
  2. Dizzyd

    I agree that social media has its place, but we do have to be careful of how we communicate with each other. Anonymity should not be an excuse for vulgarity or cruelty. The one on the receiving end is a real person – remember the Golden Rule!

    August 7, 2011 at 22:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Danielle

    I just don't bother with FB and Twitter. E-mail is enough; besides, between talking to a cute guy or texting with him, I'd rather have the real deal, personally. But hey; to each their own, eh?

    August 8, 2011 at 00:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. troybriansmom

    I met my husand on myspace 4 years ago and now we got a 1 month old son. We always say that we wont tell him how we met until hes old enough. I honestly think it was crazy I agreed 2 meet someone on a social networking site. Our story had a happy ending but alot dont. I thank god we didnt have social networking 10 years ago when I was in high school, we wer all horrible teenagers. We would have tortured each other. I think the positives are nothing compared 2 the negitives and theyr should be laws about it now. Its a way 2 let pervs into our homes. I dont have a facebook, my aunt works with a company that buys the info facebook users posts, thats why facebook is worth billions. Eveything u post is there for ppl to see until the end of facebook. They wont make money off me!

    August 8, 2011 at 01:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Bob

    There are so many issues with kids and social networking it would take a book to post them all. If you do not keep track of your kids social networking activity, or their computer activity in general, you are such a fool. If you think your kid is popular because he/she has 1000 Facebook friends you are delusional. Yes, FB provides a forum for online communication, but it also allows kids to grow more narcissistic, allows cowards a platform in front of the masses, and teaches kids the worst of communication skills. And when they get bored with fb, they will move on to tumblr or whatever the next platform is for kids who can't function in the real world.

    August 8, 2011 at 08:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Skyler

      Why do you not see that watching everything your children do on social networks such as FB or Twitter just makes it were there is no trust in your house hold. Maybe you need to just start trusting them and let them tell them on their own. Other wise you start seeing them do more and more "bad" stuff such as drugs and alcohol to rebel against you. And I'm not telling you all this as a parent because I'm not I'm nothing but a 16 year old telling you what is happening whether you like it or not.

      August 21, 2013 at 15:55 | Report abuse |
  6. kyrra

    How many different articles will there be just to tell us, again and again, that social networks can be dangerous!

    August 8, 2011 at 10:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Go

      Great Article... thanks!

      by Go

      July 7, 2018 at 00:58 | Report abuse |
  7. kristin

    Facebook may lead to psychological disorders in teens http://wp.me/p1yzb4-19y

    August 9, 2011 at 11:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Allison Gamble

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    August 9, 2011 at 20:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Shell

    The idea of Facebook is great. I get to keep my friends and family updated with pictures and posts about what's going on in my life while I'm overseas. But then again, I'm not an insecure 13 year old trying to look cool and gain acceptance. Social networking creates a list of potential issues that go on and on. So the main point is parents need to be open with their kids about online communication. Especially with so many predators out there targetting children who put too much personal information online. It's scary stuff.

    August 26, 2011 at 23:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Jennifer

    I understand that parents want to monitor your children but I mean there is a point where your crossing the line. I'm 14 and I am okay with my mother monitoring what I do, but it is just being way too over protective when you snoop through everything on your child's facebook. All I'm trying to say is everyone needs to chill out and stop being so dang over protective and give your children some privacy like for real.

    August 28, 2011 at 21:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Kaity

    Over monitoring is not so needed, especially behind your kid's back. If your child finds out they, you will lose their trust. Instead, parents should teach their kids to talk openly about their lives outside the home. Don't be so quick to yell at every mistake they do. Sit your children down and talk to them, explain the right and the wrong in detail. Don't just say "Because I say so."
    That's what my parents have done with me and my sister. I don't see my parents as just an authority figure, but more so my friends. I'm not afraid to share my thoughts on certain subjects or people and I know I can go to them if I have a problem. My parents trust me and in turn I show that I trust them by being open, as well as leaving my computer wide open, being not afraid if they accidentally stumble upon my facebook page or some past webpage I was looking at.

    September 26, 2011 at 20:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Meghan

    if parents cant trust their children enough to not be all over their facebook then they dont need to be parents. trust me your kids are not rebelling all over facebook, they are sneaking out at night rebelling against how controlling you are being. good luck with that. when your kids become of age they will never want to see you!

    October 2, 2011 at 19:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Rachel

    Okay so I am an 18 year old college student at the University of Tennessee and I am actually writing my paper on Social Networking and how its progressed virtually and in society which is how I happened to cross this article. I have a Facebook and Twitter profile and I know if I found out my parents used some program or hacked into my profile to read all of my personal conversations or even reading my profile without my permission, I would be furious and act out against them. Don't smother your kids, TRUST ME... this girl I went to high school with was very sheltered with strict parents but when she went to college she went crazy. She is getting herself into very bad situations and she doesn't understand how to prevent them or what to do in these situations because she has never been exposed to them or had the opportunity to make mistakes growing up and learning from them.... Your kids are in their prime time of forming what kind of person they are going to be or at least trying to figure out what type of person they are going to be. They need room to grow and yes, they are going to make mistakes, ITS PART OF GROWING UP, its how we learn right from wrong.. no matter how many times you tell us something is wrong, we wont know, or rather believe and listen to you, unless we experience it ourselves. It's just how we work... we are hard headed. Its just how it is. I made SOOO many mistakes throughout high school and yes i was punished for some of those mistakes but sometimes you got to pick your battles. The fact they weren't super strict helped me not want to rebel.. They had so much trust in me that I never wanted to let them down.. and because of that bond we had of them trusting me and me not wanting to lose that trust, I made the RIGHT choice a lot as well. Now that I'm in college and have those bad memories of the bad choices I made in high school... I know how to present myself and how to act in college- well not 100%, but I'm doing a lot better then some people! Bottom line is don't force your kids to hate you and rebel against you. They are smart kids, they will learn right from wrong and yes, you will obviously intervene many many times but be smart about how you go about it... don't let them miss lesson thats being taught.. they gotta learn in their way, its the only way it will stick with them.

    November 8, 2011 at 04:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lilly

      "they are going to make mistakes, ITS PART OF GROWING UP, its how we learn right from wrong" I totally agree with you, I'm 19 and sorry for my english, I'm not an american so I don't seak wery fluently but i try 🙂
      A funny thing is, I'm also writing abput social networ, i's quite interesting theme to write about. Well, i just wanted to say, every thing you have written is defenetly true and i think your parents have done good job in raising you.

      January 12, 2012 at 16:00 | Report abuse |
  14. Michael Spriggs

    I hate social networking it sucks.

    November 16, 2011 at 20:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. jtproimaging

    What an excellent topic to choose. The pros and the cons are laid out nicely. We work with a lot of young actors and this is a part of an actor's life. We will repost this article to share with young actors and their families.

    December 9, 2011 at 13:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Linda Pourmassina, MD (pulsus.wordpress.com)

    This is an important topic. With social media – as with any aspect of your child's life – talk, talk, talk. And be good examples. You should talk about social media with your children just as you would try to discuss other topics with them: sex, relationships, financial responsibility, bullying, school performance etc. The mere fact that there is a term called "Facebook Depression" should be enough to demonstrate the significant impact social media can have on all of us. The social media world is not a fantasy world. It is here to stay and it is very real. And your child's social media world is not necessarily a "G"-rated, pint-sized, kid-friendly version of your social media world. There can be bullying as well as narcissism. There can even be encouragement. Unfortunately, due to the nature of social media and rapidity of response, negative interactions can be amplified and have much more of an impact. Young people will need strong guidance to navigate this arena, in addition to the many other challenges of growing up. Not an easy task.

    January 3, 2012 at 23:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Lilly

    It does not make yu a good parent if you control your child like a madman, you are a good parent when you make your child psychologicaly and by trust that he cames to you by himself. Everyone on this planet has his own sectret(s) and you must respect that. It is like if someone would recording you daily, you would not have privacy. So, you must explen to your child how dangerous internet is, but don't you scare him by being a control-freak-parent.

    January 12, 2012 at 15:52 | Report abuse | Reply
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  25. Sara

    What Rachel stated was hit the nail on the dot. Understand that teenagers are going to make mistakes and have faith that they can learn from them. If you don't trust them; how can you expect them to show that same principal back to you? I'm a teenager and I understand what goes on in our minds. If you taught us right from wrong, we know what to do if put in an problematic situation.

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