American Psychological Association

119th Annual Convention
Washington D.C., August 4-7 2011

Poke Me: How Social Networks Can Both Help and Harm Our Kids

Larry K. Rosen, Ph.D. - APA 2011

Invited Address #3378: Larry D. Rosen, Ph.D.

Check out that tie! Virtual digital technology. :-)

Here to present some virtual grist for the 21-century psychology mill is the acclaimed author, psychologist & researcher: Dr. Larry Rosen. Today's talk is on Social Media - and today's overall social/technological landscape. How does it impact the behavior, thinking, learning, and social lives of children and teens - and across the 'generations'?

In the midst of all the excitement about new APA apps and digitalized documents and iPads, I was hoping for some distance from the opium of device devotion and constant connection, and hungry for some metrics and some research like that coming out of MIT, Columbia and elsewhere, addressing the cognitive (as well as social) impact associated with constant distraction and divided attention to multiple tasks and screens. Surely there are benefits and consequences both!

'Help and Harm'... I am fascinated by both ends of the continuum.... We choose our tools, and are influenced by our context. - Quote me on that if you'd like.

And Larry Rosen's presentation begins...

The chair of today's invited address is past APA President Patrick DeLeon, PhD, JD - distinguished scholar, advocate for responsive healthcare access policy, and longtime supporter of psychology's efforts to be responsive to real-world daily life, through ongoing research, education, and practice evolutions. He introduced Dr. Rosen as a great "futuristic visionary". Rosen is a prolific researcher and author of 4 books on modern-day parenting, work & play stressors, Online trends, and technology use across the generations. (You can see more of his past and present work on his
Psychology Today page.)

Dr. Rosen is with us 'here' now to talk about some or all of the above, and with a closer look at the phenomenon of social networks and modern digital life.


Poke Me: How Social Networks Can Both Help and Harm Our Kids

Generational Issues

We all can observe the new generations of 'tech-savvy kids', as parents, clinicians, teachers... and we've all heard of Baby-boomers and Generation X.

Here is Rosen's conception of our newest American Generations, or mini-generations:

Six Vastly Different (Mini) Generations of Americans

Silent/Traditional Generation 1925 - 1945
Baby Boomers 1946 - 1964
Generation X 1965 - 1979
Net Generation 1980 - 1989
iGeneration 1990 - 1999
Generation C 2000 +

Those born in the 1920's to mid 1940's: The silent/traditional generation.

The Baby Boomer Generation, still a dominant force, were born 1946-1964 The GenX'ers were born from 1965-1979.

Now, Rosen said, "We could draw a line here, as there is disagreement."

The Net Generation - fairly well agreed upon, "but after this nobody agrees."

As Dr. Rosen sees it, the next generation might best be described as the i-Generation: i-everything. Or... 'individualized'.

And finally Generation C: 'The Connected Generation'.

Onscreen now: A cartoon showing a baby's 'first text message'. Cartoon # 2: we're in a classroom where a student assigned to write about summer vacation asks, 'Can't I just email you a link to my blog, teacher?'

A bit more context now - about the years only since 2000 - as I hear again the mantra: 'Context is everything!'

We are shown a list some may find surprising, or eye-opening - and we can see how much of today's 'new world' was, like his Generation C, only born after the (now infamous 'Y2K') Year 2000:

Things unknown - pre Y2K

The list goes on. A decade of new, but the new normal for Generation C.

From a little wider lens, Rosen recalls the powerful vision of Alan Toffler's The Third Wave. The first was the Agricultural Wave [plows and farmers displacing hunter-gatherer lifestyle]. This lasted some 3000 years. The next wave was the Industrial Revolution, 300 years of focus on mass-production, mass transportation, mass consumption, mass-media, and massive bureaucracy. The Third Wave (title of Toffler's book) was/is the computer age, or information age. Rosen assigns that category (computer age) to about 30 years, followed by his own 3 waves, or perhaps mini-waves just beginning to fully form. Rosen's 4th Wave would be INFORMATIONAL (3-5 years) followed by the 5th Wave - COMMUNICATION/SOCIAL - and the 6th Wave - BIOTECH.

Rosen showed a bar graph chart illustrating 'the pace of technological change'. It depicted how long it took for various online and offline media to reach 50 million users. YouTube took less than a year, followed closely by Facebook. MySpace (remember MySpace?) attracted 50-million users in under 5 years, as did blogs, iPods, IM, and the World Wide Web itself. In contrast, it took about 10 years time for Cable TV to penetrate the media market. Cell phones and television (!) took 10-15 years. Lastly, (wired) telephones took about 21-22 years, while radio (remember radio?) needed almost 40 years to attain a market penetration of 50 million users.

And where is the action now in terms of short-term growth, and 'trending' use of media/technology?

Answer: Google Plus. A statistic from July 21, 2011 announces: Google Plus went from zero to 30 million users - in 3 weeks! It is "projected to hit 100 million soon."

And iPads, of course. As of June 30, 2011, Apple's iPad sales had hit 40 million. And - as of July 20, 2011, Apple announced it had sold 9 million of its 40 million iPads, just in the last 3 months of 2010.

Turning now from the large waves to a look within today's generations. As Rosen described,


* Media Use

* Multitasking

* Communication

* Socialization

* Content Creation

* Values

Before continuing, Rosen asked the audience, 'Any Gen C's here?' Actually one youth raised his hand! There were also several students and new psychologists in the audience. One more point about how differently the generations approach daily tasks. Rosen showed another cartoon, this time of a teen arguing with his mother about his poor grade on a chemistry test. It was because his iPad battery had died, he said, and he patiently explained, "You can't study without an iPod, mom." Not convinced, mom responds "And yet Mendeleev managed to organize the periodic table." - without an iPod.

In terms of media use, the generations differ in terms of their quantity of 'daily media consumption' and the type of media they prefer.

How much media? What Kinds of Media?

It seems (looking at a graph displayed onscreen) that Baby Boomers consume the least (aside from the Gen C'ers, who presumably are supervised by parents), at just over 13 hours a day, with GenX at about 15, NetGen at 19:36, and iGen at 20:23. If accurate, it would seem they've given up things like sleep, meals, school, etc., perhaps true for some, but only in a relatively few cases, certainly not the norm. However, as was explained, this is a cumulative and broad measure of daily exposure to media, which may include simultaneous consumption, as when listening to iPod while studying with iPad in hand, answering texts as they arrive, and checking in with Facebook periodically. All that got added together even if one's 'full attention' was only on one, or two, or three things. In any case, the point was that the generations differ and that all of us are taking in a lot of media! . The next chart (below) described what types of media, exactly are preferred, by which generations.

Generational Media Ause

Note that these statistics are specific to old and new 'media consumption'. Coming up we'll hear more about the trends and numbers on use of social media, research into generational differences with regard to multi-tasking and task-switching, and more on 'normal' life among this current wave, across generations.

Dr. Rosen turned now to some descriptive statistics, beginning with an extensive study and task analysis of online behavior across generations, resulting in some detailed elaboration of online activities by generation. The research was conducted by the prestigious Pew Internet research group and the completed report is available online:

Pew Internet: Generations Online in 2010

Some of the changes in Internet Use patterns are found among the Millennial Generation (ages 18-33). From the Pew Report: Compared with 2009, Millennials are more likely to access the Internet wirelessly (laptops and mobile devices), and more likely than earlier (older) generations to use social networks, instant messaging, online classifieds, online music sources, online games, blogs, and virtual worlds. However, according to the Pew findings, Gen X users (age 34-45) are more likely than Millennials to access some online resources - such as government websites and getting financial information.

Finally, Pew's report noted, "While the youngest and oldest cohorts may differ, certain key Internet activities are becoming more uniformly popular across all age groups." These include, among other things: Email(!), getting news (albeit via news sites for some, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook for others), search engine use, buying products, looking for religious information, rating products and downloading podcasts. [ Also, while this part doesn't get much attention, the same report notes that among those "74 and older: social network site usage for this oldest cohort has quadrupled since 2008" (!) ]

"Email", Rosen noted, "is still the #1 activity across every generation."

Multi-Tasking (All Day and All Night)

Another wonderful cartoon goes up on screen. A teen is lounging on a couch, in front of a big-screen TV, laptop in lap and device in hand. Dad walks by the outer edge of the couch, where he sees only Jeremy's leg dangling over the edge, but not the collection of devices ...

Father: Hey Jeremy. What are you watching?
Jeremy: On which screen?

Seen that? Done that?

There has been great interest, both from a research and education perspective, on multi-tasking and/or task switching. [For a collection of popular media news reports on memory and cognition research, as well as hot topics like 'multi-tasking', online therapies, & online 'addictions' : ]

Rosen presented another graph, depicting this time a comparison across generations [of the prevalence, not the 'success' rate] of how many tasks are typically being simultaneously or individually attended to at a given time. The 'iGeneration' is clearly the leader in terms of number of things 'being done at the same time', at nearly 7 tasks at one time among 16-18 year olds, and 6+ for 13-15 year olds, with the NetGen group at about 6 tasks Older GenC'ers (9-12) and Gen-Xers had rates between between 5 and 6. Baby Boomers 'lagged' at between 4 and 5, and (fortunately for kindergartens?) the youngest group did the least multi-tasking or switching of task/attention.

Cartoon on the screen now: Two girls in a school hallway, lockers behind them. One explains matter-of-factly to the other: "With so little free time, you have to learn to multi-task your TV watching, iPod listening, and texting with your homework."

Do They MultiTask the Same Way with the Same Things?

Dr. Rosen presented some findings from the Carrier et al (2009) study,
Multitasking across Generations: Multitasking choices and difficulty ratings in three generations of Americans of which Rosen was one of the authors.

The study involved an anonymous, online questionnaire completed by 1319 respondents, across 3 generations. The researchers "looked at 12 typical daily activities including 9 technology/media based and 3 additional daily activities: eating, reading for pleasure, and talking face to face." They focused on the 66 possible dual-focus combinations (where 2 tasks were being attended to simultaneously) and looked at the 'ease' of performing the 2 given tasks at the same time.

Examples (on the screen, titled "Which tasks are easy or difficult for you to multitask?") -

1. Checking Facebook and listening to music
2. Reading a book and listening to music
3. Eating and playing video games
4. Playing video games and watching TV
5. Reading a book and playing a video game

Switching back to the room's audience, Dr. Rosen asks: "How many people can read a book and play a video game at the same time?" Exactly one person raises her hand, enthusiastically, and beaming a huge smile. She, we learn, is a young ivy-league college student- well known to the speaker, as she happens to be Dr. Rosen's daughter. She (I can bear witness) has at several points been nodding her head in agreement with the descriptions of her Generation, as has her boyfriend, next to her.

More onscreen images - How about this? A young man is so enmeshed in his i-device in front of his face as he mows the lawn, that the poor lawn looks like a badly executed maze. A second cartoon depicts a driver crashing into pedestrians, bicyclists, and cars as she intently focuses on what she's texting: 'IM DRVING HOME. WHT R U UP 2?'

Pure joke?

Finally we see a now-gone-viral video clip of a woman walking in a shopping mall, so engrossed in her device that she walks and falls into a fountain while texting. [Would you believe she then sued the mall?]

How Easy or Difficult is it for Different Generations to Multitask?

The Carrier et al (2009) study found, in comparing 3 Generations' 'experiences of difficulty' with dual multitasking that "Some tasks are more difficult to do, but done more often."
[Note to researchers: 'Why?' - Is it a matter of the goal's importance? Social compliance/pressure? Conditioning? The technology made me do it? Decades of applied research there IMM!]

This study was designed to explore two questions: 1) Do younger people find it easier to multitask than older people in general? and 2) Are certain pairs of tasks more difficult for everyone or just older people?

A large table of results and correlations goes up onscreen here at the convention center - too complex to describe easily - but you can look at it by following the link above to the study.

The short version is... that while there are observable generational differences, a) the ease of something doesn't necessarily mean it isn't done - a lot; and b) yes, whether due to 'difficulty' or generational learning differences and priorities, different generations do differ in their preferences. [Note to marketers: Leave my 94 year old auntie's inbox alone!]

Importantly: "Each generation has their own preferred modality." Or modalities. Their level of openness to, and comfort with. multi-tasking as well as the individual modalities, varies. This latest wave is still in flow -everybody sees it, or talks about it, and lives it - in schools, at work, and within our families too.

On that note, a slide of a cartoon flashes onscreen, titled:


Picture this if you can: Another bright colorful 3-panel cartoon strip, a revisit to Jeremy on the couch (where before his father asked 'what's on the screen'). Now he's lounging on the same couch, with a book on his lap and an iPhone - which is ringing its ringtone 'off the hook'... but he is ignoring it.

His mom asks: Jeremy, why aren't you answering your phone?
Jeremy: Huh? Oh, it's probably nothing.
Mother: How do you know? What if it's important?
Jeremy: If it was important they'd text me.

A lot of laughter, but one person in particular is nodding enthusiastically and (multi-tasking!) laughing. Now I know: it's his daughter.

Dr. Rosen: "I text her to tell her I'm going to call her." More laughter. Is it true? She nods. I totally believe it: ecological validity!

So, "each generation has their own preferred modality" - and understanding this can lead to compromise and productive communication.

What are the preferred modalities, in general, by generation?

Preferred Communication Modality

GENERATION     1st Choice 2nd Choice 3rd Choice
Baby Boomers Face-to-Face Phone E-Mail
Generation X Face-to-Face Phone E-mail
Net Generation Face-to-Face Texting Phone
iGeneration Texting IM/FB/Phone Face-to-Face

One interesting finding (perhaps little known to those outside their generation) is that despite its ubiquitous appearance (e.g., in 'smart phones'), the phone itself is not the means of 1st choice among teens these days. Often the telephone (as opposed to texting) is a 'last resort'.

A Nielson survey was conducted (2010) and found, as Rosen described it, that "many smartphone users hate the telephone". More precisely, in comparing mobile phone vs. text use among 13-17 year olds, from 4th Quarter 2007 through 4th Quarter 2009, the trend line for phone calls remained flat and low (191-255 phone calls/month) while the number of texts went flying towards the top of the graph, to 2899. Rosen had one additional statistic he added to the graph - the figures from 4th Quarter 2010, almost 2 years later. Average phone call number remained flat (now 196/month) while texting continued to increase, the average now at 3705.

The youngest generations do have quite an affinity for texting, in general.

How much texting is done?

We are shown a graph from The Nielson Company showing the number of SMS (text) messages sent and received per month, by age.

The lowest number was for those 65+, not surprisingly. But... The average text messages per month was 41!

For those age 55-64, 126 per month was the average.

45-54: 349 texts/month is average

35-44: 583 texts/month is average

25-34: 758 texts/month is average ... and then it jumps for the next two groups:

18-24 year olds sent/received an average of 1707 text messages per month, in 2010. And...

13-17 year olds? An average of 3705 texts per month

The youngest group surveyed (0-12) exchanged an average of 1178 texts/month, slightly less than 18-24 year olds, but far more than any of the older age groups.

Finally, the Nielson study also found that 42% of teens said they can text blindfolded.

And that is some demographic context.

Here are a few more metrics/observations, on a page headed by the iconic buttons of MySpace, Google+, and Facebook:

* MySpace: dead

* 1 in 11 people WORLDWIDE have a Facebook page!!! [750 million and growing]

* Facebook is the 3rd largest country in the world (established 2004)

* One out of every 5 minutes on the Internet is spent on Facebook


Comparing two top contenders for our Internet time, Facebook and Google (not Google+), their average 'unique' visitor numbers were compared: Facebook 131 million, Google 148 million

Average Monthly Minutes: Facebook: 6:36 / Google 1:15

A 2010 Study compares Facebook and Google growth and numbers and a graph shows the striking takeoff of Facebook around March 2009, shooting up rapidly to catch up with Google by March 2010. At that point their traffic each represented about 7% of Network share. [Source: Experion Hitwise]

Facebook Use

Given how ubiquitous Facebook has become - and granted that we all have our own vision of the results, from 'a godsend' to social/marketing tool, to 'addiction'- one can safely conclude: It's more than a passing fad, like moonrocks or NeoPets ... A big chunk of the world is 'on Facebook'. Is it a new lifestyle? A tool? A 'drug'?

The Typical Facebook User

And no surprise to observers: Mobile users exhibit twice as much activity.

Here is an interesting finding, which resonated with at least a few people in the room:

"48% of 18-34-year-olds check FB when they wake up; 28% before they get out of bed."

Time spent on status updates seems to be 'mostly teens'. (Remember: Facebook was originally restricted to college students.) Now, with all the decisions about online friend and identity management, the language changes as well, for example the Webster's Dictionary addition of the word, 2 years ago, 'unfriend'.

Again, as with device use and preferred modalities, there are generational differences concerning Facebook.

By far, Net Gen netizens have the highest percentage of any group in terms of using Facebook 'several times a week or more', at about 70%, followed by the iGen 50%+) and then GenX (40%+) groups. Baby Boomers had the least multiple weekly use of Facebook (< 30%) except for the barely using Gen C.

And now the big question:


All of us have surely heard the debates and opinions about healthy and unhealthy behavior online, the great and good potential as well as the lurking dangers, like phishing scams, cyber-bullying, loss of study time and/or sleep, and various 'addictions'.

Rosen's proposal (up on the screen) is: It's all about socialization and interpersonal development!

By this he refers to the way in which, within age groups, there is social learning and skill-building going on, both actively and through watching and learning from peers. Examples onscreen now: One student's status asks someone to explain why its cool to have your pants bottoms sagging well below the owner's bottom. Someone takes a jab at another's photo. A Facebook poll tells you that your friends have replied, so now it's your turn: 'Do you think Ben is Cute? Do you think Ben is Funny? Do you think Ben is a good athlete?'

And more screen shots. On Facebook one can shape the profile one wants to convey: employers, philosophy, arts and entertainment, education and work history, sports and sports teams. One can learn a lot (safely) about one's online and offline peer group, and also see all varieties of online social skills (in the 'old days': Netiquette) being demonstrated, preached, and modeled.

One phenomena has been the re-shaping of the word meaning for 'friend'. As another cartoon illustrates: a youth is thinking aloud, 'Who cares what other people think - there's nothing wrong with eating alone.' Next frame: I have nothing to prove. I got plenty of friends! Last frame: sitting alone at home with a meal, next to the computer, and finishing the thought.... 'online'. (The cartoon I note, dates to 2006, a time of many concerns about 'Internet Addiction', generally.)

A cartoon now enlivens the notion, mentioned earlier, of 'unfriending'. A woman is shown sobbng and being consoled: "Being unfriended isn't the end of the world." And 'unfriending' joins 'friending' in the
new lexicon.


Now a change of focus as Rosen identifies and discusses a number of 'Myths' which are prevalent in discussing 'Internet Use' and trends. Some of this may relate (somehow) to the mystery of why marketers and surveys tend to ask about time online 'excluding email', although for a great many people, as the foregoing data should make clear, it's hard to parse out how much time is alloted for one specific online task vs. many others. (Is email not of interest because it doesn't have push-in ads or Facebook apps - yet?) Don't most people divide time up, on computers and devices, depending on situation and preference?

MYTH #1: Technology Means the Same to Everyone

Rosen reviewed the data collected in two separate studies, from 2010 and 2011 (n=3,702)

Study 1: assessed generational differences in values
Study 2: assessed the level of psychiatric disorders in children, teens and adults.

"Both studies asked parents to answer questions about self and about one child or teen."

The data collection included such things as Daily hours of technology and media use:
-- Going online
-- Being on a computer but not online
-- Sending and receiving e-mail
-- Instant Messaging
-- Playing video games
-- Listening to music
-- Watching television

Additional data included Monthly phone calls and text messages, as well as several items relating to Facebook use - which were separately factor analyzed.

The factor analysis resulted in identifying clusters of 1st tier activity choices, 2nd tier, 3rd tier, by generation:


Factor 1: On Computer, E-Mail, Online, Facebook

Factor 2: Television, Video Games, Telephone
Factor 3: Texting, Music


Factor 1: On Computer, Online, E-Mail, Instant Message, Music, Facebook
Factor 2: Video Games, Television
Factor 3: Texting, Phone Calls


Factor 1: On Computer, Online, E-Mail, Instant Message, Music
Factor 2: Video Games, Television
Factor 3: Texting, Phone Calls, Facebook

Clearly, what is 'normal' is different across the generations. ['Normal tech use' appears to reflect the younger generation's view of 'technology' not in the classic sense of a 'tools to help humans, but as a constellation of commonly used devices and applications.]

MYTH # 2: Social Networking is Only for American Kids

We know from experience that this is not the case, and the statistics bear it out:

* 59 % of American adults are on FB (doubled since 2008)
* The average age has shifted from 33 in 2008 to 38 in 2010
* 7.5 million FB users are "underage" (under 13) and 5 million are under 10!
* 70% of FB users live 'outside' the U.S.

MYTH # 3: Media Makes You Unhealthy

Here some results from the first study (Rosen et al, 2009):

1030 subjects were recruited, parents of children, preteens, and teens

They were assessed in terms of health (psychological, physical, behavioral & attentional), healthy/unhealthy eating, daily exercise and media use.

Does media use predict poor health after accounting for demographics (parent/child), poor eating habits, and lack of exercise?
ANSWER: After controlling for the 3 factors, the following emerged as PREDICTORS OF POOR HEALTH:

Children: Total daily media use
Pre-teens: Total daily media use; plus daily video game playing
Teens: (1) Total daily media use; (2) Daily hours online; (3) Daily Video Game Playing


Rosen et al followed up on the first study (Rosen, Carrier et al, 2011) and focused this time on mental health, or at least one aspect of it: Personality Disorders.
The study looked at 777 teens and adults, and collected data about their daily media/technology usage, and Facebook use specifically. They were also given the MCMI-III (Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory) "which assessed Axis I and Axis II clinical and personality disorders".

RESEARCH QUESTION: Are personality disorders related to technology and media use - specifically Facebook use?

[I can already here the cries of researchers and academicians: "Correlation does not imply causation". Is it possible personality disorders in fact cause Facebook? 'Just sayin', as they say...]


First, with regard to Myth #1 - Results indicated (as we can see above) that the dominant factor (#1) includes a variety of common online activities seen as part of the same thing, basically, with TV and video games seen as separate (although definitionally still a part of 'technology'). Myth #2 is easily disproven by the statistical reality - FB users are in no way exclusively 'American kids'.

Myth #3, in contrast, involves the most complex of premises and findings thus far, and is sure to be debated in terms of the premise, results, and implications:

For Teens: In correlating Facebook use with the MCMI-III scales, teens' FB use correlated ONLY with Narcissism. [My comment here is: 1) we're discussing teens! and 2) some believe in the concept of 'healthy' narcissism as well as the less beloved egotistical, grandiose notions of 'unhealthy narcissism' - in my clinical psychologist hat for a moment.]

In Young Adults, Facebook use correlated with the MCMI-III constructs of

* Narcissism

* Histrionic Personal Disorder

* Antisocial Personality Disorder

* Bipolar (Mania)

* Sadistic, Passive/Aggressive, Borderline, Paranoid, Somatoform

One might well ask, How Strong is Facebook as a Predictor?

[Again I would invoke the researcher's truism about correlation and 'prediction'; It is conceivable, as some have pointed out, that those with certain dispositions are drawn to FB, rather than FB creating those dispositions, so 'prediction' may for some be seen more accurately as 'post-test analysis'. But they did find the relationships! ]

Of the 777 Subjects across generations, the researchers partialled out age, gender, median income, ethnic background, and education. After having done this, they found that "Facebook overuse is a significant predictor of": Histrionic, Alcohol Dependence, and Sadistic/Aggressive personalities (as 1st factors). The other descriptive/diagnostic categories named above - along with 'delusional' were '2nd' level.

MYTH #4: There Is No Such Thing As 'Virtual' Empathy

[Actually, some of us labeled this a 'myth' a decade ago! :-) Our context regarding what I termed 'online empathy' was effective, empathic web-based counseling/therapy - Fenichel, Suler et al,
Myths & Realities of Online Clinical Work, J.Cyberpsychology &Behavior, 2002].

Here now is a new and welcome controlled study to make the point (Spradlin, Bunce et al, 2011).

This study looked at 1200 social network users, teens and young adults. They measured "real-world empathy" and "virtual empathy" plus social support.

Research Questions:

1. Is virtual empathy 'real'?
2. How does it relate to real-world empathy?
3. Who shows more virtual empathy?

A sample item was shown: A FB post - "Wish I could have the surgery tomorrow so my mom didn't have to. :/ screw you cancer. You suck. Your getting cut the hell outta my mom's kidney tomorrow!!!!! buh-bye! So long! Good riddance!

As you might imagine, the responses certainly seemed supportive, 'empathic', connected: 'prayers her way', 'send her my love pls', '#@!% Cancer', 'I hope all goes well. :) be strong'....


* Virtual empathy is a REAL, viable construct
* Virtual empathy is correlated with real-world empathy (r =.47) - they are not the same but they are related.
* More virtual empathy and real-world empathy = more social support
  - (but real-world empathy 6x more important)
* More time on social networks = more virtual empathy and more real-world empathy
  - (but virtual empathy is 5x more important)
* More video gaming = LESS real-world empathy (but not virtual empathy)

So: "What does it all mean for social networkers?"

The 'Best (significant) predictors of virtual empathy':

* Time Spent on Facebook
* Time spent instant messaging


MYTH #5: Facebook Makes You MultiTask ... Which is Bad

Here some fascinating realities and 'inconvenient truths' emerge. First:

* Early Studies Show We Can't Multitask

... at least not with efficiency nor with the supposed time-saving benefits (more errors, less actual work accomplishment, and the subjective sense of getting things rapidly done)

* Is Media Consumption Responsible?

Answer: Unlikely - and again subject to correlation/causality caveat. (Did multi-tasking 'cause' the new media?) Plus, with student behavior:

* Task Switching is actually what is being discussed much of the time, and not true Multitasking. [Multi-tasking is simultaneous and pushes our cognitive limits; task switching is rapidly changing from focal point to focal point, pushing perhaps our limits of sustained focus/attention concentration.]

And now, some cogent questions:

* How often do professionals task-switch? And

* What about students?

And here we switch, somewhat, to a look at students, and how they relate to media - and also the impact on students of their parents. What is a parent to do? As for the students:

How Do Students Study?

Rosen, Carrier, & Cheever (2011) researched this question, surveying 279 middle school, high school and university students. They did observations every minute for 15 minutes.

Variables included: On/Off task, school performance, and available technology (e.g., windows open onscreen)


1. Are students able to focus amidst technological distractions?

2. What predicts school performance?

The Findings were instructional [sic]:

* In terms of focus: Students tended over the 15 minute observation chunks to lose their focus about every 3 minutes - across all grade levels.

* Students tended to have an average of 3 separate windows open in front of them while studying, possibly serving as distraction and contributing to the overall focusing profile.

What Predicts School Performance?

Co-varying out gender and age, the correlates of school performance included:

* How much they stay "on task" (+)

* If they have strategies for studying (+)

* Preference for task switching (-)

* Total media hours per day (-)

* Whether they checked Facebook once during 15 minutes (-)

Of course, one can not blame Facebook the entity, as the impulse may be to 'check with friends and see what's happening', and Facebook just happens to be 'the place' for connection. But it's certainly powerful.

A truly provocative finding, finally, to provide some perspective to the broad state of generational study habits, from Course Smart: Wakefield Research Study (2011) :

73 % of college students can't study without some form of technology

38 % cannot go more than 10 minutes without checking laptop, phone, etc.

So how can we keep our kids safe(r) online? Says Rosen, "It's All About Parenting"

His own study (Rosen et al, 2008) found that "parenting style is correlated with Internet behaviors". An "Authoritative parenting style" related to "better online behaviors, less Internet addiction, more self-esteem, less depression, more parental supervision, etc."

Finally, Dr. Rosen shared his own ideas on ...

How to Develop an Authoritative Parenting Style

1, Set rules and limits on technology use and behavior.

2. Ask the children/students for their thoughts and ideas about these rules and limits.

3. Set consequences for violations in advance. Consequences must be minor and then escalate if needed. Try behavioral contracts.

Clearly this is more enlightened and likely to succeed than complete non-involvement on one end [a cartoon depicted parents as stone-aged keepers of their savvy. tech-aged children] or at the other end with what a teen might call 'fascist' rather than authoritative parenting. It makes sense that the effective, authoritative figure - teacher or parent- really needs to know generational realities, and to listen, and talk...

Dr. Rosen's own approach was presented as "The T.A.L.K." Model of Parenting"
The four ingredients necessary to foster a positive dialogue and outcome:

* Trust
* Assess
* Learn

His general formula for positive results has been, "You talk one minute, let them talk for 5 .... Have a weekly meeting [to assess, share, and foster trust] ... Learn from your kids what [their] technology is about."

I can't help notice, it's seemed to work for him, as his daughter is seemingly focused and engaged, and successful enough in school to end up at a top college. Later on she'll likely get a text from Dad inviting an old-fashioned phone call - after he checks Facebook, of course.


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2008 Convention Highlights:

Grand Theft Childhood | Opening | Malcolm Gladwell | College Success, Love, Hate, More | My Life With Asperger's
My Space, You Tube, Psychotherapy, Relationships... | Aaron T. Beck - 2008 | The Mind and Brain of Voters

2009 Convention Highlights:
Internet: Pathway for Networking, Connecting, and Addiction | Opening | Virtual Psychology & Therapy | Q&A with Zimbardo
Seligman: Positive Education | Future of Internet Media | Sex, Love, & Psychology | How Dogs Think

2010 Convention Highlights:
Online Support Groups & Applications | Evidence & Ethical Practice | Opening Ceremony | Sir Michael Rutter: Resilience
Group Memory | Psychology in the Digital Age | Steven Hayes: What Psychotherapists Have that the World Needs Now

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