HOW THE WEB IS CHANGING US
Friend or foe?
Children and teens’ overuse of social media is linked to
lower grades, poor health and symptoms of potential
mental health problems, new research shows.
BY JAMIE CHAMBERLIN • Monitor staff
Children whose parents don’t ask them about their online activities and don’t monitor their use of Facebook are less healthy, more narcissistic, and
perform worse at school than children whose parents restrict
their technology use, Larry D. Rosen, PhD, professor of
psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, said
at APA’s 2011 Annual Convention.
In his research on how Facebook and other technologies
affect the health and well-being of today’s youth, Rosen has
found that students who use Facebook more throughout the
day are more prone to mental health problems, have worse
grades and tend to be sick more often than peers who use social
media less frequently.
“Young kids look at technology the way I look at air,” said
Rosen. “It’s not just a tool to them, they sleep with it, they wake
up with it, and it’s part of their world.”
In one as-yet-unpublished study he conducted this year,
Rosen observed the study habits of 279 middle-school, high
school and university students in 15-minute blocks. Rosen
recorded how long each student spent studying before he or
she checked Facebook or paused to send a text message to a
friend. Students who flipped back and forth between studying
and such distractions had worse grades than those who stuck
to their schoolwork until they were finished, said Rosen.
“Whether they checked Facebook just one time during a
15-minute observation period even predicted worse grades,”
In another study, conducted in 2009, Rosen surveyed 1,000
parents about how much time their kids spent online, their
eating habits, exercise routine, overall physical and mental
health and use of other technology, such as video gaming
systems. Rosen found that even when he accounted for
demographics, eating habits and lack of exercise, media and
technology still had a powerful effect on the children’s health.
Those who used more hours of media were more unhealthy
across the board, from elementary school age through high
school, said Rosen. They reported more sick days, more
stomach aches, more depression and worse behavior in school.
“You name it, [they had] more of it,” he said.