On Monday the American Academy of Pediatrics released its April issue of Pediatrics that included a clinical report on social media and how it can affect kids. The report, called ” The Impact of Social Media Use on Children, Adolescents and Families,” gives background on the latest trends and common practices in social networking and recommends how parents and youths can better understand this new kind of communication. The big news in this report, however, is the commentary on a new condition called ” Facebook depression.”
News of Facebook depression is making headlines everywhere. While there is disagreement that this is a distinct condition or an extension of depression that kids have in other aspects of their lives, there is overall agreement that kids are more at risk for isolation when spending time on sites like Facebook. And if anything, spending a lot of time online can have negative impacts on kids with already low self-esteem. Facebook can facilitate a “big popularity contest,” determined by factors such as who has the most friend requests or who has the most photos tagged of them. Status updates and newly posted photos can be very in-your-face proof to youths that they weren’t invited to a particular event or aren’t “in” on a certain inside joke. The site can manifest some serious envy and jealousy because it provides an easy way for kids to compare themselves to their friends and peers.
Another issue contributing to this kind of depression is that kids are exposed to more online when they see something posted on a wall or in someone’s status. It’s easy to find sites that aren’t age-appropriate, and contributors to the Pediatrics report are concerned that kids can find content online that will lead them to other risky behaviors. An example of this is the self-harm videos on YouTube that kids can be easily exposed to.
We’re not confirming or denying whether or not Facebook depression is a real affliction. But there can definitely be negative consequences related to social networking. With so many games, applications and ways to communicate on Facebook, it’s easy to get wrapped on in the online world. As Gwenn O’Keeffe, co-author of the clinical report says, “A large part of this generation’s social and emotional development is occurring while on the Internet and on cell phones. Parents need to understand these technologies so they can relate to their children’s online world – and comfortable parent in that world.” So encourage your kids to participate in offline activities as well and if you do ever notice changes in demeanor or attitude, especially after your child has been spending a lot of time online, talk to them and make sure there isn’t a more serious issue at hand.
What was your reaction to this clinical report? What is your opinion about “Facebook depression” and how do you help your kids maintain a balance of their online and offline lives?