Jerry Weichman, a Newport Beach clinical psychologist, pointed out both the pros and cons of online social networking. Often kids feel judged as a "book by its cover" based on their size, height, clothes, as well as association with a particular peer group.
Social acceptance is their No. 1 priority. Kids deal with their day-to-day stress and residue of hurt, pain and anger by acting out negative emotions with their parents, given the safety of doing that at home. Whereas adults can use work, substances or television as a pacifier, kids use the computer.
On the Internet, kids don't feel immediately judged. They have access to feeling more in control with a new identity and social network. For kids who are shy, the Internet becomes a much easier way to meet and interact with people.
Kids can also catch up with many friends at once and create a "killer space" for themselves online in a matter of minutes. On the other side, kids' brains are spinning. They are busier and distracted with less memory and ability to concentrate.
They can take different kinds of social risks in cyber-space, and become out of touch with direct social cues and interaction. So how do parents weigh both sides of this issue?
"Don't be a disapproving other," Weichman said. "Every past generation has felt that the new generation was going to hell."
Specific suggestions to parents include:
Getting a Myspace.com account and enter their world. See who your kids' friends are.
Modeling appropriate behavior by avoiding excessive use of TV and computer yourself.