Kids and Twitter - The Emotional Costs

Filed under: In The News

online worldTwitter is currently enjoying a surge in popularity and it seems that everyone is doing it. But while the social networking tool, and other fast-paced information sources, are designed to allow users to connect in real-time, a new University of Southern California study reveals that the rapidity of such connections could actually harm the emotional development of young people.

Twitter, the new Facebook, and the crawl at the bottom of the screen on cable news shows bombard us with a constant stream of information that, according to experts, is too fast for our brains to digest.

"If things are happening too fast, you may not ever fully experience emotions about other people's psychological states and that would have implications for your morality," says researcher Mary Helen Immordino-Yang.
The study found that humans can process and respond to signs of pain in others very quickly, but in order to feel admiration or compassion, we need time to reflect. Too much information too fast doesn't allow for reflection and can adversely effect the emotional growth of young people.

"We actually separate the good from the bad in great part thanks to the feeling of admiration. It's a deep physiological reaction that's very important to define our humanity," says Antonio Damasio, lead researcher and director of USC's Brain and Creativity Institute.

USC sociologist Manuel Castells says that despite the growing popularity of Twitter and other social networking sites that rely on rapid-fire information delivery, television remains the major culprit in this information overload.

"In a media culture in which violence and suffering becomes an endless show, be it in fiction or in infotainment, indifference to the vision of human suffering gradually sets in," he says.

I know there are many people who believe that blaming media for society's growing indifference to violence is a cop out, but I am not one of those people. I firmly believe that the steady stream of violent images and information that I personally have been exposed to as an adult has impacted my ability to react with the same compassion and feelings that I once did. I am not indifferent to the suffering of others, but I may at times be numb to it. Will young people who are growing up with 24-hour news and the constant chatter of the Internet ever learn to feel that compassion in the first place?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.