Monday, February 7, 2011

Social networking - psychological effects on teenagers

Parents worry that social networks like Facebook and Orkut could have harmful psychological effects on their children. They seek consultation for social network related behaviour of their teenagers when academic grades fall due to excessive time spent on Facebook, when the teenager is subjected to cyberstalking, or when they themselves are disturbed by the online self-profile of their child. What do we know about some of these social networking behaviours that bring parents and their children to the Clinic?

Friends, self-presentation and self-esteem

Posting a profile assists the teenager in gaining self-awareness. Becoming self-aware by viewing one's own Facebook profile enhances self-esteem (Gonzales and Hanock, 2010) .

A larger number of Facebook friends and  an exaggerated positive self-presentation does enhance the teenager’s well-being. However this is not necessarily associated with a sense of belonging to a supportive group. A more honest self-presentation does increase happiness and is also grounded in social support provided by Facebook friends (Kim and Lee, 2010).

Children whose self-worth is based on public contingencies (others' approval, physical appearance, outdoing others in competition) indulge in more photo sharing. People whose self-worth is contingent on appearance have a higher intensity of online photo sharing. Those with private-based contingencies (academic competence, family love and support, being a virtuous or moral person, and God's love) spend less time online (Stefanone et al 2010).

Facebook vs face-face

Impressions formed from face-to-face interaction and from personal web pages generally correspond. So, people liked in face-to-face interaction are also liked on the basis of their Facebook pages. Whether online or offline, people who are socially expressive are liked. People who express themselves non-verbally though gestures and body language in face-to-face interaction are also expressive online. The same goes with self-disclosure - when there is more disclosure offline there is more disclosure on line (Weisbuch et al, 2009).

Facebook and MySpace mostly act as an extension of face-to-face interaction. However, some users do rely on Facebook and MySpace for interpersonal communication more than face-to-face interaction (Kujath 2010).

Predictors of excessive use

  • Extroverted and unconscientious individuals spend more time on social networking sites and their usage tends to be addictive (Wilson K et al, 2010).
  • Shy people  also like Facebook and spend more time on it. However, they have few Facebook "Friends” (Orr et al, 2009).
  • Narcissistic personalities also have high levels of online social activity. They are recognised online  by the quantity of their social interactions, their main photo self-promotion, and attractiveness of their main photo (Buffardi LE 2008, Mehdizadeh 2010).

Needs satisfied by Facebook

The four primary needs for participating in groups within Facebook are socialising, entertainment, self-status seeking, and information (Park et al 2009). The majority of students use friend-networking sites for just that - making new friends and locating and keeping in touch with old ones (Raacke and  Bonds-Raacke 2008).

Negative outcomes

Broad claims of unwanted sexual solicitation or harassment, associated with social networking sites may be unjustified. The risk of victimisation for a teenage is more likely through instant messaging (IM) and chat (Ybarra and Mitchell 2008).

Parental supervision is a key protective factor against adolescent risk-taking behavior
Unmonitored internet use may expose adolescents to risks such as cyberbullying, unwanted exposure to pornography, and revealing personal information to sexual predators  (Pujazon-Zazik and Park 2010).
References
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  2. Gonzales AL, Hancock JT. Mirror, Mirror on my Facebook Wall: Effects of Exposure to Facebook on Self-Esteem. Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2010 Jun 24. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed
  3. Kim J, Lee JE. The Facebook Paths to Happiness: Effects of the Number of Facebook Friends and Self-Presentation on Subjective Well-Being. Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2010 Nov 30. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed
  4. Kujath CL. Facebook and MySpace: Complement or Substitute for Face-to-Face Interaction?
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