Facebook and Teens: Depressive, Narcissistic Consequences?

Social media is often trotted out as a negative influence on teens that rely heavily on Facebook, Twitter, and similar mediums to interact with their peers freely.

Predators, bullying and lack of empathy are often cited as consequences of heavy use of services like Facebook, but is there any truth to the idea that teenagers who engage in this sort of interaction risk negative psychological consequences to the activity? The answer to that questions seems to indicate a mixed bag of results that indicate teens could benefit in some ways, but risk negative outcomes in others.

A 2009 study showed teens who relied on Facebook and similar sites for entertainment and social outlets missed more school and suffered more anxiety and stomachaches. In 2011, another study linked Facebook use with dissipated focus and lower grades in middle and high school students. Perhaps most worryingly, an ongoing study of more than 700 teens has shown a correlation between “narcissism, anxiety, and bipolar disorder” and heavy use of the social media.

WebMD spoke to experts about the results of studies on Facebook and teens, and found that while the activities had some inherent risks, psychologists cited benefits to teen use of the services as well- perhaps surprisingly, including a higher instance of real-world empathy. David Carlson, PhD, an Oklahoma City psychologist, explained:

“I see a lot of kids reaching out to friends, showing a lot of caring, online. And that translates to offline,” he says.

Another positive: “Facebook help teens to express who they are,” Rosen says.

Two more studies showed that teens often just use the services in lieu of other technologies, such as a cell phone, and another found teens on Facebook could use the site to engage in interaction for which they might normally be too shy.

Does your teen use Facebook heavily? Do you think the impact of Facebook on teens is more negative or positive?