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Facebook Can Make Teens Sick, Study Says

Findings presented at conference say narcissism, anxiety, and stomach aches can result from too much social networking.

Facebook may be great for reconnecting with old school friends, but for teens still in school, it can often do more harm than good. That's according to study findings presented over the weekend at the American Psychological Association convention by Dr. Larry Rosen, a professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, whose research focuses on children and technology.

Rosen presented his research at the conference that laid out how social networking sites can both harm and help teens. Among the adverse effects:

  • Teens who are heavy gamers or Facebook users have more trouble sleeping, higher levels of anxiety, depression, and stomach aches.
  • Young adults and teens who spend their days inside Facebook are more narcissistic and show more signs of other psychological disorders, including antisocial behaviors, mania, and aggressive tendencies.
  • Students who use more technology are likely to miss more school.
  • The more teens and adults use Facebook, the more likely they are to also use alcohol.
  • Students from junior high through college age were observed to generally check social networks or text messages every few minutes while studying, leading to lower test performance than students who focus for longer periods of time.
  • The average teen sends 2000 texts per month, which can lead to problems communicating with family and even carpal tunnel syndrome in a few cases.

Rosen also points out a few of the positive byproducts of social networking, including the surprising notion that young people can learn "virtual empathy" that can even carry ever to the real world. So much for the online world being nothing but trolls and flame wars. He says Facebook and other networks can also be helpful tools for introverted students to communicate and connect and have even been used successfully as a teaching tool.

He also offers a little advice for concerned parents who might want to keep track of their kids' online interactions.

"If you feel that you have to use some sort of computer program to surreptitiously monitor your child's social networking, you are wasting your time. Your child will find a workaround in a matter of minutes," he says.

Rosen adds that the key for parents in keeping kids' screen time safe and healthy is to do more listening than lecturing.

"The ratio of parent listen to parent talk should be at least five-to-one. Talk one minute and listen for five," Rosen advises.


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