Australia: Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter making kids dumber, parents believe

July 10, 2010

By Mitchell Toy From: Sunday Herald Sun July 18, 2010

SOCIAL media networks such as Facebook and Twitter are making teen web surfers dumber, more than half of their parents believe.

But less than half believe the sites are impacting on their health and wellbeing.

New cyber-safety research commissioned by Telstra reveals 65 per cent of parents with children using social media say it distracts them from their homework, contributing to lethargic learning.

A quarter of parents say their tech-savvy teens spend more than seven hours a week connecting with friends, while less than 40 per cent fear the behaviour is affecting their children’s wellbeing. Cyber safety expert Dr Martyn Wild said parents were often unaware of what their children were doing online.

“The answer is not turning off internet access, rather it’s about implementing simple behavioural changes in your children and setting realistic expectations about their use of the internet,” Dr Wild said.

He said setting “house rules” for internet use such as placing computers in a common area and setting time restrictions on social network use helped keep teens focused on their studies.

The research, conducted by Newspoll, reveals 84 per cent of 14 to 17-year-olds use a social network and almost half of 10 to 13-year-olds use sites such as Facebook.

Greensborough mother Jan Banks said she imposed strict guidelines on internet use for daughters Brooke and Dayna when they were small, making them wiser about surfing the web now they are teenagers.

“They have a certain amount of time they are allowed to use it per night,” said Ms Banks, a former teacher.

“It is also important to go along whenever the school launches a program on cyber safety. For the girls to hear it from someone other than mum is good.”

Telstra has launched a new cyber safety website to share advice and research about keeping children safe online.

The site at has been designed to arm internet users of all ages with useful information.

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