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9 August 2011

New research links social networks to mental illness in teens

Rachel Hawkes, account director, Elemental By Rachel Hawkes

Image of teenager wearing glasses with Facebook logo reflectionResearch from California State University has linked mental illness, behavioural issues and ‘narcissistic tendencies’ to spending too much time on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Professor of Psychology, Dr Larry Rosen said that social networks encourage young people to exhibit anti-social, aggressive and vain behaviours.  In the same vain, he added that it can also have a positive impact, helping some teens to find self confidence and feel empathy for others.

Dr Rosen discussed his findings at a conference held by the American Psychological Association, his talk was entitled, “Poke Me: How Social Networks Can Both Help and Harm Our Kids.”  He said, “While nobody can deny that Facebook has altered the landscape for social interaction, particularly among young people, we are just now starting to see solid psychological research demonstrating both the positives and negatives."

Parents were offered advice to tackle their children’s use of social networks.  Rosen said, “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.”  

Rosen also advised parents to pay attention to online trends and new technologies and applications.

Excessive amounts of time spent on social networks has also been linked to poor school performance.  Scientists finding that teenagers who checked their profiles and updates from their smart phones every 15 minutes whilst studying, achieved lower grades than those who didn’t.

Of course we can’t forget the connections being made to the London riots and social networks such as Twitter and mobile devices, in particularly Blackberry Messenger – both in terms of fueling the riots and now in the clean ups taking place across the capital.

Image credit: escapedtowisconsin on Flickr

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