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Beware of ‘Facebook Depression’


CREDIT: Flickr / riggzy

Time recently pondered whether “Pediatricians Should Discuss 'Facebook Depression' with Kids.” Young people shouldn’t be surprised, apparently, if the subject of Facebook comes up at their next physical. The idea of “Facebook depression,” which appears to be the idea that some socially isolated young people get depressed after extensive contact with social media, has become so widespread that The American Academy for Pediatrics (AAP) released guidelines that urge parents to ask more social media-related questions in order to assess the mental and emotional health of young people.

You might be wondering, how could Facebook be the source of a public health dilemma? Gwenn O'Keeffe, co-author of the report that lead to AAP's new guidelines and a pediatrician outside Boston, maintains that the digital world that young people now live in is one of the primary outlets that influence their social and emotional development. This is when broader issues like concern over sexting and cyberbullying come into play.

Constantly seeing updates from their peers online can make young people feel even more isolated and ostracized before the dawn of social media. O’Keeffe is calling for parents and pediatricians to focus more education and attention to teaching our youth about how to handle social networking sites correctly.

There is definitely something to be said about the negative effects of technology on development; however, with every innovation you have to take the cons along with the pros. For many young people Facebook has proven to be a successful social outlet for them to develop their friendships even further, and yet for some it has proved to be a burden on this development.

The key is always, moderation. Carrots might be good for you, but if you eat too many, you might also turn orange. 14-year old Vivian realizes this and discusses it in her blog post, The Pros and Cons of Facebook. A similar discussion posted on CBS news describes “Facebook depression” risk in more detail, highlighting that, “Researchers disagree on whether [Facebook] is simply an extension of depression some kids feel in other circumstances, or a distinct condition linked with using the online site.”

With changing technology, we must accept the risks with the potential rewards, and with social networking, there are a lot of benefits to reap. O’Keeffe’s concerns that the role of technology can have an effect on the mental and social health of young people are valid, but there is a major gap in the attitude between parents and children toward social networking sites like Facebook. Parents more often have an overwhelmingly negative attitude about social networking, sometimes because parents don’t understand how it works. Such an attitude doesn’t help young people in learning how to effectively navigate the digital world.

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