Since the Morgan Stanley report, we've continued to see a steady stream of news reports on internet addiction and youth. So it wasn't too much of a surprise that last weeks release of the Kaiser Family Foundation 'Generation M' study was met with a variation on the internet addiction theme.
While there are indeed negative aspects to digital media, along with kids who spend way too much time playing video games and texting, there are also lots of young people using social and digital media in positive and inspiring ways.
As Meredith at Ypulse points out, most media outlets and parenting guru's focus solely on the negative effects of digital and social media. More often than not, the positive effects of social and digital media in the lives of tweens, teens and twentysomethings are left out of the 'youth and digtal media' conversation. I couldn't agree more.
A new study in the January issue of Developmental Psychology conducted by psychologists at the University of Virginia suggests that well-adapted youth with positive friendships will use social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace to enhance the positive relationships they already have.
Researchers assessed the friendship quality and popularity of 172 13- to 14-year-olds, and then, eight years later, "friended" the study participants on their Facebook and MySpace pages to examine their interactions and friendship quality in those domains.
The entire report is locked up behind a pay wall (but well worth the 11 bucks), but here are some of the key findings:
- The research team found that the youths who were better adjusted in their early teens were more likely to use social media in their early 20s, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or parental income, and that, overall, the patterns of friendship quality and behavioral adjustment as early teens continued into early adulthood;
- The interactions young adults are having on their Facebook and MySpace pages are more similar to than different from the interactions they have in their face-to-face relationships;
- Parents of well-adjusted teens may have little to worry about regarding the way their children behave when using social media. It's likely to be similar positive behavior;
- 86% of the youth in the study used the social media sites like Facebook, MySpace or Twitter, which parallels the national average;
- Use of Facebook and MySpace is really pervasive among this age group, so it's understandable that young people would want to be connected with their peers in this way; it's an extension of the relationships they already share;
- Parents should try to stay involved with their children and make an attempt to understand their online world in the same way they would want to understand any other aspect of their lives.