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Blogging Can Help Calm Anxious Teens: Study

THURSDAY, Jan. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Blogging appears to help teens deal with social problems, according to a new study.

It included 161 Israeli high school students, 124 girls and 37 boys, average age 15, who had some level of social anxiety or distress. They all had difficulty making friends or relating to current friends.

The students were divided into six groups. Four groups were assigned to blog, one group wrote in a private diary about their social problems and one group did nothing.

Two of the blogging groups focused their posts on their social problems, and one of those groups opened their posts to comments. The two other blogging groups were free to write about any topic, and one of those groups also opened their posts to comments.

All the blogging groups posted messages at least twice weekly for 10 weeks.

The researchers assessed all the teens' self-esteem, everyday social activities and behaviors before, immediately after, and two months after the 10-week experiment.

The teens in the blogging groups showed significant improvements in self-esteem, social anxiety, emotional distress and the number of positive social behaviors, compared to the teens who wrote in a private diary or did nothing.

The greatest improvements were seen in teens who were told to write about their social problems and whose blogs were open to comments, according to the study published online recently in the journal Psychological Services.

"Research has shown that writing a personal diary and other forms of expressive writing are a great way to release emotional distress and just feel better," lead author Meyran Boniel-Nissim, of the University of Haifa, said in a journal news release. "Teens are online anyway, so blogging enables free expression and easy communication with others."

"Although cyberbullying and online abuse are extensive and broad, we noted that almost all responses to our participants' blog messages were supportive and positive in nature," co-author Azy Barak said in the release. "We weren't surprised, as we frequently see positive social expressions online in terms of generosity, support and advice."

Because so many more girls than boys were involved in the study, the authors said future research should control for gender.

More information

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry offers an overview of the teen brain.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Psychological Services, news release, Jan. 4, 2012

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