While there are computer programs that allow parents to monitor their children's online activities, at least one psychologist thinks they are a waste of time.
Dr. Larry Rosen, professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, served up that opinion recently at the 119th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, in a panel on social networking.
“If you feel that you have to use some sort of computer program to surreptitiously monitor your child's social networking, you are wasting your time,” Rosen said, “Your child will find a workaround in a matter of minutes.”
That's not to suggest parents should ignore their children's use of the Internet. How teens use social networking sites, he says, can be an indicator, both positive and negative. But you have to come at it from a level of trust and understanding.
“You have to start talking about appropriate technology use early and often and build trust, so that when there is a problem, whether it is being bullied or seeing a disturbing image, your child will talk to you about it,” Rosen said.
He encouraged parents to assess their child’s activities on social networking sites, and discuss removing inappropriate content or connections to people who appear problematic. Parents also need to pay attention to the online trends and the latest technologies, websites and applications children are using, he said.
“Communication is the crux of parenting. You need to talk to your kids, or rather, listen to them,” Rosen said. “The ratio of parent listen to parent talk should be at least five-to-one. Talk one minute and listen for five.”
Heavy Facebook use not a good sign
In his presentation, Rosen said teens who use Facebook more often show more narcissistic tendencies while young adults who have a strong Facebook presence show more signs of other psychological disorders, including antisocial behaviors, mania and aggressive tendencies. If you child always seems to be on Facebook, he says, that could be a wakeup call.
He said daily overuse of media and technology has a negative effect on the health of all children, preteens and teenagers by making them more prone to anxiety, depression, and other psychological disorders, as well as by making them more susceptible to future health problems.
But there are also some positives. Online social networking can help introverted adolescents learn how to socialize behind the safety of various screens, Rosen says. Social networking can also provide tools for teaching in compelling ways that engage young students.
“While nobody can deny that Facebook has altered the landscape of social interaction, particularly among young people, we are just now starting to see solid psychological research demonstrating both the positives and the negatives,” Rosen said.