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How Facebook Really Affects Kids

Social Media Pros and Cons

According to a presentation at the 119th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, there are definite pros and cons to children's use of social media.

In his talk, "Poke Me: How Social Networks Can Both Help and Harm Our Kids," Larry D. Rosen, PhD, professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, claimed that parents who secretly try to monitor their kids' activities online are "wasting their time".

The adverse effects of social media sites included:

narcissistic tendencies and antisocial or aggressive behaviours
anxiety, depression, and other psychological disorders
learning deficiencies, leading to lower grades

Positive influences linked to social networking included:

"virtual empathy"
assisted socializing for introverts
alternative teaching methods.

Rosen offered the following guidance to parents: "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."

In addition to monitoring child's activities on social networking sites on a daily basis, parents are urged to pay attention to online trends and latest applications. Where necessary, parents should advise their children to remove "inappropriate content or connections to people who appear problematic".

"Communication is the crux of parenting. You need to talk to your kids, or rather, listen to them," Rosen said. "The ratio of parent listen to parent talk should be at least five-to-one. Talk one minute and listen for five."

Clearly, social media in all its forms is here to stay. But do the pros outweigh the cons where children are concerned? Is Rosen's advice to parents pragmatic?