Is social networking turning teens into narcissists?
Published Friday, August 5, 2011 11:58AM EDT
Could Facebook be turning your teen into a narcissist?
Research suggests social media can bring out problems in teens that lead to psychiatric disorders. But they can also offer teens some advantages too and help to develop their social skills.
Larry Rosen, a professor of psychology at California State University and the author of "Rewired: Understanding the iGeneration and The Way They Learn," has been researching the impact of media and social media on the psychological health of kids and teens.
Rosen says the problem with Facebook and other social media sites is that they can give budding narcissists a new platform to develop their overinflated sense of selves. Narcissism can then develop into full psychological disorders.
Rosen says online narcissists are fairly easy to spot.
"Even if you just look at someone's status updates on Facebook, you can tell how narcissistic they are because they use words like ‘I' and ‘me,' rather that ‘you' and ‘we'," he told CTV's Canada AM Friday.
Narcissists also tend to post more pictures of just themselves, with no family or friends, and their photos are usually more posed and more professional looking.
Rosen said he believes one of major disadvantages of social media and texting is also one of their major pluses: hidden communication.
"With any social media, most of the actions take place behind a screen, so you don't see the person at the other end. Therefore, you can feel comfortable saying whatever you feel like to anyone," he said.
That can hold an advantage for those with social anxieties because it can break down some inhibitions. But it can also lead to problems, because the reactions to what's said online are often not immediate.
"One of the aspects of social media is that you really get much of the reactions at the other end. And when someone does react to something you say, you can choose to ignore it. You don't have to see their expressions, you can simply go one doing what you're doing," he said.
That can lead to social gaffes. Without the social cues that come when speaking to someone face-to-face, people on the other end can misinterpret what you're saying, Rosen says. That's why he recommends parents teach their kids how to use social media properly, so that there are no misunderstandings.
"As soon as you put your kid on any kind of technology, you need to talk to them constantly about the ramifications of the technology. You need to point out that on the other end of the screen there is a real human being, someone who might get sad if you say something to hurt them," he said.
He also recommends that parents teach kids about taking a waiting period before reacting quickly to something they read online.
"When you type something, give it a couple of minutes or seconds to re-read it and see if there's anything in it that might be hurtful. Or see if something could be added to make the other person feel better," he advises parents tell their kids.
While some might believe that social media can stunt a child's socializing skills, Rosen believes the services simply teach a concept called "virtual empathy." With virtual empathy, Instead of getting a hug when we tell our friends we're sad or upset, we get messages of support.
"We still get the empathy that makes us feel good. And that's really what you're looking for when you say, ‘Gee I'm not feeling so good today'," he said.