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The Writing on the (Facebook) Wall

“Happy birthday to my best friend!!!!  I hope you have a great day!”

These words were not shared over lunch, said in a phone call or even uttered in a voicemail. They were written on a Facebook “wall.”

It’s no secret social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are literally growing overnight.  Everyone from stay-at-home moms to professionals seems to be jumping on the bandwagon. It’s a terrific way to stay connected with people and reconnect with old acquaintances. Seems perfectly harmless, right? According to a recent report from The New York Times, maybe not.

The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that on average, children ages eight to 18 spend a whopping 7.5 hours a day utilizing various types of technology, including social media sites. It is not uncommon for children to have numerous conversations on various websites simultaneously, while even doing their homework.  But does that really count as a conversation? And does having a following of 1,000+ on Twitter have any real meaning?

According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, the social ramifications for excessive use of such sites and other electronics, like texting and instant messaging, may potentially hinder the way children communicate and interfere with their real life relationships. Interacting in cyberspace doesn’t exactly carry over to the “real world.” Things like tone-of-voice, facial expressions and body language can seem foreign to those rarely exposed to normal communication methods. An increase in shyness is likely to persist and an overall awkwardness and lack of confidence is sure to ensue.  The absence of key everyday communication skills can make tasks like the dreaded act of public speaking and presenting monumentally challenging for this inexperienced group of youngsters.

Furthermore, some argue that the entire dynamic of friendships and relationships could be altered. The lack of face-to-face communication prevents children from fully interacting with and getting to know their peers. Because they miss out on this closeness, truly knowing someone, this alienation can prevent trust, intimacy and connection from fully developing. Since childhood relationships help pave the way for healthy adult ones, this may impede their abilities to express themselves and their emotions, according to Professor Parker, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Alabama, in the Times article.

While some parents argue that social networking sites have helped their timid children make friends and step out of their comfort zones, it’s plain to see the possible negative outcomes that are looming as well. What do you think about young kids using social media sites to the extent they do, as well as their use of other electronic devices? Share with us!



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