That Facebook is hugely distracting is hardly stop-the-presses kind of news, but parents might be dismayed to learn that the social-media site can hobble learning and make kids less healthy and more depressed.
Research has found that students in middle school, high school and college who checked Facebook at least once during a 15-minute study period got lower grades. Other studies have discovered that teens who use Facebook tend to have more narcissistic tendencies, while young adults who are active on the site display other psychological disorders. And daily use of media and technology — what teen doesn't use tech each day? — makes kids more prone to anxiety and depression.
The bad news was delivered at the 119th 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. “The more media they consumed per day, the worse students they were,” says Rosen. “If they checked Facebook just once during 15 minutes, they were worse students.”
There's good news too, of course. While Facebook and other technology has been blamed for hijacking childhood, they also help children develop their identities and hone their ability to empathize with others. In a study that Rosen recently wrapped up, he found that the kids most able to show “virtual empathy” — through supportive comments online — were those who spent more time online than other children. “We are finding that kids who are able to express more virtual empathy are able to expres more real-world empathy,” says Rosen. “They feel more supported socially by online and offline networks.”