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Parents warned on social media overuse

Too much time on Facebook 'can harm your child's mental health'

We, as people living in today's world loaded with information and technology, face a serious challenge from the use of information technology (IT) at work and even in everyday life. IT is expected to have a beneficial role in people's lives. A researcher warned that instead, children's overuse of social media could affect their physical and mental health.

In a recent interview with The Nation, Amornwich Nakhonthap, adviser to the Ramajitti Institute and research chief of the Child Watch Project, cited a presentation by Larry D. Rosen, PhD, professor of psychology at California State University.

At the 2011 Annual Convention of the American Psychological Associa-tion (APA), Rosen warned that frequent overuse of social media could cause mental illnesses in young people - for example bipolar disorder, which was an alternate emotional state between mania and depression, a symptom related to delusions and hallucinations.

Rosen's study showed that frequent Facebook use among teens correlates only with narcissism - but for young adults, it can indicate signs of many disorders, including narcissism, antisocial personality disorder, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder.

Rosen told the convention that teens who are heavier Facebook users often show more narcissistic tendencies, while young adults who have a strong Facebook presence show more signs of other psychological disorders, including antisocial behaviour, mania and aggressive tendencies. The professor also found that daily overuse of media and technology has a negative effect on the health of all children, preteens and teenagers, by causing them to be more prone to anxiety, depression, and other psychological disorders, as well as by making them more susceptible to future health problems.



Facebook can be distracting and can negatively impact learning. Studies found that middle school, high school and college students who checked Facebook at least once during a 15-minute study period achieved lower grades.

"Thai children aged eight to 18 spend about eight hours daily watching television, using cellphones or playing on the computer, although experts say children, especially those in primary school, should spend no more than two hours per day on any of these activities," Amornwich said, adding that Thailand had not paid enough attention to the problem.

And, since children's lack of life skills could lead to bigger problems when they grow up, he urged relevant agencies to take serious action on such vulnerable issues. "For years, we've heard that Thai children lack life skills, but agencies have not coped with this problem seriously," he said.

According to a survey by his Child Watch Project, the life skills they lack include being wise consumers who read food labels before buying or eating; knowing how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases; concern for their own safety by always wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle; and being able to control their temper.

"This shows us that our families, communities and schools are failing to foster such important awareness in our children. Last year, they tried to increase children's academic achievement, but it was only part of the success for the young people," said Amornwich.

The project's survey also found that students with low performance have been found to have low self-esteem, leading to risky behaviour; and children who are not living with their parents are more prone to risky, undesirable behaviour than those raised by their parents. Thailand has around 7 million families where children are cared for by a single parent and grandparents, which leads to many child problems. Risky and unwanted behaviour includes drinking, smoking, drug addiction, unwanted pregnancy, gambling, fighting and bullying.

"Teachers should not ignore students with low academic achievements - or what we call students at the back of the classroom - otherwise they will be like a ticking time bomb, becoming bad adults and causing bigger problems to society. It is necessary that schools and communities pay attention to them and inspire or motivate them to study to prevent them from becoming risk factors.

"Our project will push forward a campaign encouraging stakeholders to seriously address such problems. I will also propose the government to make the family its national agenda," added Amornwich.


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