Status Update: Is Facebook Unhealthy for Kids? A New Report Says Yes

Talk about irony. Facebook is abuzz with the news that the social networking site might be bad for teens.

Teens who frequent Facebook and other online social networks may be depressed, anxious, anti-social, narcissistic, and less-than-stellar students, according to Larry Rosen, a psychologist at California State University, Dominguez Hills, who presented research at the American Psychological Association’s annual convention. According to Rosen, teens who spend hours per day on social networking sites are:

-- More likely to miss school, have stomachaches, sleep poorly and exhibit signs of depression and anxiety. Similar trends, Rosen said, have been noted with frequent use of computers and video games.

-- More narcissistic. A 2010 study by psychology researcher Soraya Mehdizadeh found a similar link. Teens with a strong need for admiration were more likely than other teens to spend substantial amounts of time on social networking sites. Teens with low self-esteem may also use the networks to pump up their self-worth.

-- Less likely do well in school. Not surprisingly, Rosen found that teens who interrupt their studying every 15 minutes to check Facebook perform less well on tests than teens to concentrate while studying. 

Before you panic, remember one thing: None of these studies show a direct cause-and-effect link. Heavy Facebook usage might be associated with depression, but that doesn’t mean that Facebook causes depression. It might be, instead, that depressed teens are more attracted to Facebook than other teens.

Online networking also has its advantages. Both Rosen and Mehdizadeh believe that online networks might -- potentially -- help shy teens or those with low self-esteem. "If individuals with lower self-esteem are more prone to using Facebook," Mehdizadeh told Scientific American, "the question becomes, 'Can Facebook help raise self-esteem by allowing patients to talk to each other and help each other in a socially interactive environment?'"

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