Didn’t we just read a couple of weeks ago in “The New York Times” that social networking was bad for kids? Experts claimed that all that time online was preventing our children from forming meaningful relationships.
Now “The Los Angeles Times” has published a story which quotes an expert who says that children who spend lots of time on social media sites are “the healthiest psychologically.” Huh?
Calling them “teenage social media butterflies,” The L.A. Times’ Melissa Healy writes that “electronics appear to be the path by which children today develop emotional bonds, their own identities, and an ability to communicate and work with others.”
But didn’t The New York Times just say that all this time spent using technology was turning our kids into anti-social creatures who didn’t know how to sustain a face-to-face conversation? Well, which is it?
Healy cites a new study which found that 13- and 14-year-olds interacted on social network sites in ways consistent with their offline behavior. In other words, if you’re a good kid, you’ll play nice online. And if you’re bad news, you’ll get into trouble online.
Also, the study found that teenagers mostly use social networking sites to socialize with friends, not to meet strangers.
“Parents of well-adjusted teens may have little to worry about regarding the way their children behave when using social media,” according to the author of the study, University of Virginia psychologist Amori Yee Mikami.
But what about the poorly adjusted teens? I guess parents are worried about them already.
In January, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that American children ages 8 to 18 spent more than 7 1/2 hours a day using technology - computers, MP3 players, TVs, video games, computers, and handheld games — sometimes, using several simultaneously.
If you add in the time kids spend texting (which the Kaiser study didn’t include), the hours spent using technology would would surpass time the time spent sleeping.
A report by the Pew Research Center released in April found that 72% of U.S. teens text-message regularly, a third of them more than 100 times a day. Teens are now more likely to text than to talk by phone, communicate by e-mail or chat in person.
But maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
It all depends upon the child, according to a recent study in the journal Developmental Psychology. Teens who are already having trouble will undoubtedly find more trouble online. Mikami’s research found that teens who had behavior issues or emotional problems were more likely to harass, bully, “sext” or meet strangers online. And if your kid is an angel, well, presumably, they’ll behave responsibly online.
So there’s nothing to worry about, right?