Link Between Facebook Use and Teen DepressionFacebook is every where you turn, and just about everyone you know can now be found on this social networking site. Facebook is extremely popular among teens, not just adults, letting teens connect with their peers effortlessly. Many parents are aware of the risks involved with letting their teen have a Facebook account, such as sexual predators and cyber bullying. But, you can now add another danger for your teen and the use of Facebook. Doctors are now warning Facebook can lead to depression among certain teens, causing alarm for parents like myself.
Facebook and Depression
Although there appears to be a link between Facebook use and teen depression, it remains unknown if Facebook use among teens directly causes the depression or only worsens underlying depression. Teens with already low self-esteem may suffer from increased depression as they view other's Facebook statuses and pictures that create the illusion their peers are happy and problem free.
Facebook provides a very limited version of reality for teens, which can be more difficult for teens to handle than real-life encounters. Facebook can make teens feel worse about themselves and situations than they already do as a result of their peer's status updates. As parents, we were all teens once ourselves and we know how easily teens can be influenced by their peers and feel judged.
"There are unique aspects of Facebook that can make it a particularly tough social landscape to navigate for kids already dealing with poor self-esteem." said Dr. Gwenn O'Keeffe, a Boston-area pediatrician. O'Keeffe goes on to say, "It can be more painful than sitting alone in a crowded school cafeteria or other real-life encounters that can make kids feel down because Facebook provides a skewed view of what's really going on. Online, there's no way to see facial expressions or read body language that provide context."
Most teens consider Facebook to be a popularity contest, which much of high school is. The more friends and status updates you have, the more you are part of the "in crowd." If you remember back to your high school days, being in the in crowd meant every thing. This can leave teens with few friends on Facebook feeling as though they don't measure up to their peers.
On the other hand, teens who may struggle socially may "fit in" on Facebook, providing them with an outlet to relieve some of their social anxiety. Although there does appear to be a connection between Facebook use and depression in teens, doctors say parents should not be worried about Facebook use causing their teen to become depressed. Few teens appear to actually be at risk for developing worsening depression symptoms due to Facebook use. If you suspect your teen may already be depressed or feels judged, it may be best to keep them away from Facebook.