Studies Look At What The Internet Can Do To And For Kids


There was a period in history when we assume being a teenage girl or a girl on the verge of teenagedom must have meant listening to a Joni Mitchell record while writing in a diary. Now, there’s Taylor Swift, blogs, Facebook, texting and the like. It’s all so confusing. So two recent studies have tackled how the Internet affects young people. Let’s take a look.

First, the Sunday Styles section of the New York Times looks at a study by psychology professors at the University of Haifa, Israel, which examined how blogging could be a positive factor in helping teenagers work through their issues. The subjects’ ages were an average of 15 years old, and more girls than boys were studied: 124 girls and 37 boys participated. The Times writes:

And so to the Internet. The teenagers were divided into six groups. The first two groups were asked to blog about their social difficulties, with one group asked to open their posts to comments. The second two groups were asked to blog about whatever struck their adolescent fancy; again, with one group allowing comments. All four groups were told to write in their blogs at least twice a week. As a control, two more groups were told to keep either an old-fashioned print diary or to do nothing at all.

All of their blog entries were then pored over by four psychologists to determine the authors’ relative social and emotional state. In all the groups, the greatest improvement in mood occurred among those bloggers who wrote about their problems and allowed commenters to respond.

Despite all that is said about the meanness of the Internet, the commenters were shockingly nice and encouraging, making blogging the superior option to diary writing.

In conclusion, we have to think that if this study tells us anything, it’s that researchers have possibly found the root of Tavi Gevinson’s power.

But, for a different perspective on how the Internet and other media might affect girls, we go to Jezebel, which notes a (flawed) Stanford University. The study, which was also featured in two separate New York Times blogs, shows that girls ages 8 to 12 who spend more time glued to screens are not as happy as those that don’t. At the Times‘ Motherlode blog, KJ Dell’Antonia writes:

But what the Stanford researchers gathered from the collected data does suggest that most parents’ instinct to limit both social media and passive media for tweens and young teenagers is sound. Online communication and video use were both associated with “negative social well-being indicators.”

But, as Jezebel points out, the Bits blog explained earlier this week that results may have been skewed by a lack of both a representative sample of responders and follow-up by researchers when it came to checking the facts behind responses. For instance, the study does not explain whether girls who are unhappy to begin with are drawn to media use, or whether media use is the actual cause of their distress. Alas, the study has piqued interest in the subject.

Now if only someone would do a study on how these things affect 20-something single females.