We hear a lot about the downside of plugged-in teenagers — the anxiety the experience on social media, sexting, cyberbullying — but that doesn't mean that teens don't feel some psychological benefits from all that time spent online. In fact, a recent study found that good old fashioned blogging can actually function as a form of therapy.
Image by Danielle Corsetto from Girls with Slingshots.
In a new paper, which appears in the journal Psychological Services, was authored by Meyran Boniel-Nissim and Azy Barak, psychology professors at the University of Haifa, Israel. Boniel-Nissim and Barak looked at 161 Israeli teens who exhibited signs of stress or social anxiety. Many of these teens reported that they had trouble making or connecting with friends.
The researchers split the teens into six groups. Two groups were told to blog at least once a week about their social distress, with one group writing on blogs that accepted comments and the other writing on blogs that did not accept comments. Two groups were told to blog at least once a week about anything their teenaged hearts desired, one group accepting comments, the other not. The two control groups were told to keep a paper journal or do nothing at all.
The teens who saw the greatest improvement in their mood were the ones who blogged about their anxieties on blogs that accepted comments. The suggestion is that blogging about their emotions functioned as a form of therapy, and that the comments the teens received functioned as positive feedback, with assurances and advice they weren't getting from their peers.
An especially interesting aspect of the study is that Barak said the comments the blogging teens received were particularly positive and encouraging. I wonder if the teens were generally blogging in English or in Hebrew, as the latter would make for a much smaller online community. I'd be interested in seeing how studies like this would compare across different language groups.
A Blog as Therapy for Teenagers [NYTimes]