There's new research out in the ongoing debate over whether or not Facebook rots kids' minds, and parents may be more tempted than ever to wrestle their children's smartphones away from them. While the news isn't totally bad, teens who use Facebook are more likely to be narcissistic, suffer from anxiety and depression, and perform worse in school.
Larry Rosen, a professor of psychology at California State University, presented the new research at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association. Time reports that teens who use Facebook often are more likely to be narcissistic and have other psychological problems like mania and aggressive tendencies. Also, teens who use media and technology everyday (i.e. just about every teen) are more likely to have anxiety and depression.
In another study, students were observed while studying using a computer for just 15 minutes. Rosen says:
"What we found was mind-boggling ... About every three minutes they are off-task. You'd think under these constraints, knowing that someone is observing you, that someone would be more on task."
But researchers underestimated kids' inability to resist sharing useless information with their friends. Students opened more and more windows through the 8-10 minute mark, and those who tried to multitask while studying performed worse in school.
Rosen says the best way for schools to tackle the problem actually isn't to ban cell phones in class. Like a kiddie smoke break, Rosen says letting kids use technology for one minute every 15 minutes can prevent students from being distracted by their compulsive desire to use Facebook. "We now know neurologically that if we don't have a tech break, kids are already starting to think about anything other than what the teacher talking about," he explains. "If they know they get a tech break, they're able to stop those thoughts. It works amazingly."
The benefits to using Facebook aren't as compelling. Texting and using social networking sites can help children develop their identities and their ability to empathize with others. Rosen found that kids who express more "virtual empathy" are able to express more empathy in the real world too. However, this is unlikely to assuage fears about children's worsening technology addiction. Few parents will be convinced that mastering the ability to post sympathetic emoticons on a friend's Facebook wall is worth sacrificing a few letter grades.
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