Study Sheds Intriguing Light on Online Risks

A new study involving researchers including those from the University of Central Florida shows that while teens routinely encounter online risks, such as sexual solicitations, cyberbullying and explicit material,  the negative effects of such exposure appear to be temporary.

According to researchers, the negative effects vanish for most teens in less than a week.

The study by the University of Central Florida, Pennsylvania State and Ohio State found that typical teens seem to be resilient and cope with most online risks, moving beyond the temporary negative impacts quickly.

According to a UCF release, the researchers conducted a web-based diary study of 68 teens. The researchers say they chronicled the teens' online experiences for eight weeks and used pre-validated psychological scales to assess how negative online experiences impacted teens’ emotional state and well-being. 

While the researchers say they found that teens reported more negative emotions during the weeks they experienced cyberbullying and explicit content, these effects were gone only a week later. 

The findings will be presented at the 2018 conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing next year.

Researcher Bridgett McHugh, who had worked on the study while at UCF, said if there is a message here, "it is that teens are being exposed a lot, but they bounce back and show resiliency."

She added, "We’re not exactly sure how they are learning the coping skills, but they are and that’s good news."

McHugh said coping may be happening through other online interactions with friends or through support from social media communities.Researchers said they absolutely acknowledge there are cases where teens experience severe online risks, such as cyberbullying, that lead to long-term negative outcomes, such as committing suicide.

But these appear to be extreme cases, based on the data.

Researchers said they found that these extreme scenarios aren't the average teen experience.

This research was funded in part by the National Science Foundation under grant CNS-1018302. 

Any opinion, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. National Science Foundation.

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