'Selfie' destructive? 'It puts an emphasis on one facet of their lives'

'Selfie' destructive? 'It puts an emphasis on one facet of their lives' »Play Video
Julie Young, a Boston-based behavioral analyst, sits with her sons Nolan, 3, left, and Jameson, 4, right, while looking at a smart phone at their Boston home, Monday, Jan. 27, 2014. Child development experts say it ís natural for toddlers to be fascinated with their own image, and that interest plays an important developmental role as they develop a sense of self. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

EUGENE, Ore. -- Whether it's on a cell phone or a tablet, people have become obsessed with selfies.

"Selfie was the top word of 2013, so it is definitely something that's popular right now,” said Julie Hynes, the senior community health analyst for Lane Public Health.

Some experts say the self-portrait phenomenon could have a negative impact on toddlers and young children. Psychologists have found that taking too many self-portraits can impact a child's ability to wait for gratification.

Research on the selfie is limited, but experts say it could have negative impacts similar to any excessive behavior.

"When we think about young people looking at their parents - always taking selfies or taking pictures of them - it puts an emphasis on one facet of their lives," said Hynes.

While it is a natural part of a child’s development to be curious about their own image, Hynes said parents should take photos that show their child with other people.

A lot of teenagers and young adults seem to be obsessed with taking pictures of themselves to post on Instagram and Facebook. Some experts say, it doesn't mean they're narcissistic or vain - in fact, it's perfectly normal. 

Mary Thompson, a ninth-grader at Federal Way Public Academy concedes the constant feedback is addicting. 

"Seems to always be a competition nowadays to see who has the most followers and who can get the most 'likes' on their pictures," she says.

Dr. Jana Mohr-Lone, who heads up the University of Washington's Philosophy for Children Department, says it may seem narcissistic, but she's convinced this is just how adolescents engage with one another in a social media-driven world.

"Questions like 'who am I' and 'how do others see me' are really a very natural development part of being an adolescent," says Mohr-Lone.

The doctor even finds some value in the "selfie" for adolescents.

"They're not just, 'Ya know, do I look OK? How do I look?' that kind of thing, but they're also conveying feelings and reactions and sometimes images can do that way more clearly than words." 

Dr. Mohr-Lone says it can become a problem when teens are unable to filter opinions or negative comments about that picture they posted, or if the phone and computer are the only "real" connection the young person is able to have with the world.

Lane Public Health has a few tips to ensure that your teen is using social media in a healthy and safe environment.

"There is this real hunger for authentic deep interaction, and the more of that you can give, the more I think young people will come to seek it out," Mohr-Lone says.