Wednesday, Dec. 07, 2011

More Facebook, Lower Grades

Attention, parents of techno freaks: Facebook may lead kids down the path of lower grades, poorer health and depression. Did you know that students in middle school, high school and college who checked Facebook at least once during a 15-min. study period got lower grades? Or that teens on Facebook tend toward narcissism? Or that kids who use media and technology daily are more prone to anxiety and depression?

These unhappy findings were shared in August at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association by Larry Rosen, a professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, who researches the psychology of technology. "A parent's job is now way more complex," says Rosen. "We have created a world for students where they cannot focus because we have given them all this really cool stuff that is distracting."

Researchers observed children's study behavior and found:

•The more time that elapsed, the more windows opened on the students' computers. The number of windows peaked at 8-10 minutes, and on-task behavior declined at the same point.
•When students stayed on task, they performed better.
•When they toggled between windows and did other tasks, they performed worse.
•Checking Facebook just once during 15 minutes resulted in poorer grades.

"What we found was mind-boggling," says Rosen. "About every three minutes, they are off task."

Another study of 750 teens and adults found that Facebook use predicted psychological disorders; teens who logged on more were more narcissistic. And online surveys of moms and dads revealed that kids who used more media daily were sicker, both emotionally and physically.

The upside — and there is one — is that Facebook can help kids enhance their sense of empathy toward others and fine-tune their identities. Rosen found that children who spent the most time online also displayed the most "virtual empathy" in terms of supportive comments made. "We are finding that kids who are able to express more virtual empathy are able to express more real-world empathy," says Rosen. "They feel more supported socially by online and off-line networks."