Doctors Warn About ‘Facebook Depression’ In Teens

By Lindsey Tanner, AP Medical Writer

CHICAGO (AP) — Add “Facebook depression” to potential harms linked with social media, an influential doctors’ group warns, referring to a condition it says may affect troubled teens who obsess over the online site.


Researchers disagree on whether it’s simply an extension of depression some kids feel in other circumstances, or a distinct condition linked with using the online site.

But 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 and lead author of new American Academy of Pediatrics social media guidelines.

WBZ-TV’s Kate Merrill reports.

With in-your-face friends’ tallies, status updates and photos of happy-looking people having great times, Facebook pages can make some kids feel even worse if they think they don’t measure up.


It can be more painful than sitting alone in a crowded school cafeteria or other real-life encounters that can make kids feel down, O’Keeffe said, 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.

The guidelines urge pediatricians to encourage parents to talk with their kids about online use and to be aware of Facebook depression, cyberbullying, sexting and other online risks.

They were published online Monday in Pediatrics.


Abby Abolt, 16, a Chicago high school sophomore and frequent Facebook user, says the site has never made her feel depressed, but that she can understand how it might affect some kids.

“If you really didn’t have that many friends and weren’t really doing much with your life, and saw other peoples’ status updates and pictures and what they were doing with friends, I could see how that would make them upset,” she said.

“It’s like a big popularity contest — who can get the most friend requests or get the most pictures tagged,” she said.

Also, it’s common among some teens to post snotty or judgmental messages on the Facebook walls of people they don’t like, said Gaby Navarro, 18, a senior from Grayslake, Ill. It’s happened to her friends, and she said she could imagine how that could make some teens feel depressed.

“Parents should definitely know” about these practices,” Navarro said. “It’s good to raise awareness about it.”

The academy guidelines note that online harassment “can cause profound psychosocial outcomes,” including suicide. The widely publicized suicide of a 15-year-old Massachusetts girl last year occurred after she’d been bullied and harassed, in person and on Facebook.

“Facebook is where all the teens are hanging out now. It’s their corner store,” O’Keeffe said.

She said the benefits of kids using social media sites like Facebook shouldn’t be overlooked, however, such as connecting with friends and family, sharing pictures and exchanging ideas.


“A lot of what’s happening is actually very healthy, but it can go too far,” she said.

Dr. Megan Moreno, a University of Wisconsin adolescent medicine specialist who has studied online social networking among college students, said using Facebook can enhance feelings of social connectedness among well-adjusted kids, and have the opposite effect on those prone to depression.

Parents shouldn’t get the idea that using Facebook “is going to somehow infect their kids with depression,” she said.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

  • emom

    Ok now we are going to BLAME a social media for depression.. NICE< give them a reason to be depressed,, it cant be because of some other reason, they dont feel hey belong, they have other reasons for a depression, like mom and dad are out of work, one of their parents are not living with them, you know divorce, drugs and alchohol are invovled, peer pressure, bullying, lets not forget there are many parents that dont even watch what their kids do, or for that matter CARE.. but facebook cause for depression, thats a very interesting concept……. I would be looking into the childs life and upbringng you may find better reasons their instead.

    • Stacy

      I hear what you are saying, but I think FB can cause some types of anxiety and depression. I’m an adult and I find myself arguing with people about issues and walking away from FB. I can only imagine a teen that doesn’t have a lot of contact with people. Try and remember your teanage years. I think they have a point.

      • Fanny Forbes Franklen

        How about the 4 illegal wars that are going on, the dollar is losing value daily and may go away as the world reserve currency, the price of food is going through the roof, housing prices are crashing with more to go, their food, water and air is poisoned and now radiation may be coming …. but let’s focus on Facebook as their parents loose their jobs, homes and health. None of that could compare to the evils of FB.

      • Purple Girl

        I know what you mean. I’ve had issues with certain online games in FB and had to reach to point of learning to just walk away. Just remove the permissions for the game and go to its page and block it. Then you don’t have to read about it or spend money on it. It is stupid to become suicidal over FB or its games, but I’ve been there. If you feel stressed by Facebook, just give yourself a FB vacation and see if you still feel that way when you come back to it.

        I don’t feel FB causes problems per se, but it does exacerbate them.

    • Duh

      This article is not BLAMING Facebook at all. The article merely says that they have found that using FB can perpetuate depression in kids who are prone to it. I can TOTALLY see that. Facebook for many teens (and even some adults) is nothing more than a contest to see who is the most popular, and who is doing the most things in their life. Facebook can be good at connecting with old friends and sharing ideas, but it can also have a lot of negative effects because of this competitive aspect. It (unintentionally) puts loads of emphasis on how many friends one can get, how pretty/popular one is, how athletic one is, how many vacations one (or parents) can afford to go on, etc… Basically, the focus is on EXTERNALS. In other words, as fun as it might be (for some), when you get down to it, FB really is a rather shallow site that many teens (and some adults) merely use to exploit themselves.

      • Teresa

        I agree with the above comment. FB is nice but there is a lot of bragging and boasting which is a bit over the top at times.

    • Please Read Before Commenting

      Did you even read the article? Your comments strongly suggest that you only read the headline.

    • Tony Miller

      Well said emom and the horrible solution these “doctors” will prescribe are anti depressants that have been PROVEN to cause FAR more problems than they solve. Side effects like violence and suicide ’caused by the SSRI drugs” are far worse an effect than anything that could be remotely caused by Facebook.
      If one looked into the doctors involved in this article I suspect it will be found a ‘fishing for Pharma” connection.

      • Joe Papp

        Mr. Miller:

        I was casually looking at the article. Thinking, “Another BASELESS stupid ‘study’..” Then I read your comment and suddenly the BINGO light went off.

        I think you are spot on. Self feeding behavior, because some “elites” with their “closed market” licenses decide they want to up their income even more.


    • Tony Santamassino

      Why do people always leap off the deep end? NOBODY SAID FB was evil. Yes there are many other factors contributing to situational depression. Organic causes are some of the most common sources of depression in children.

      Most children are not depressed because we are fighting “illegal wars” or because the world monetary sytem is in crisis. Certainly these are things that we adults should be concerned about, but if you as an adult are actually clinically depressed because of those things then please seek professional help. Situational depression in children can be exacerbated by things such as Facebook and this, I think< is what the author is trying to say. Be aware…don't be alarmed.

      What alarms me about Facebook is that at age 13 parents lose all control of their childs Facebook Account. There are no parental controls and the parent can not disable the account.

  • Doctors Warn About ‘Facebook Depression’ In Teens | Truth Stings
  • CM

    if a kid is depressed over a WEBSITE, the parents aren’t DOING THEIR JOBS.

    • ragu4u

      Personal responsibility is not learned by blaming the parents for everything their kid does. That’s why the little brats carry on as they do. Mommy and daddy are the ones who get and TAKE the heat.

      • Me

        If they’ve raised little brats who give their parents b.s., the parents aren’t DOING THEIR JOBS.

    • cas

      CM… could you please point me to the nearest perfect parent? facebook just represents society… people have lost their way… looking for people to make them happy… give them worth instead of a relationship with Jesus (someone who existed before facebook)…

    • Esteban Colberto

      We should make it illegal to be an adult and lock up all the parents. Obviously, the doctors here are the problem, and, they are adults. Furthermore, they are probably baby boomers who are responsible for everything. End parenting, free the children, and take away the social security and let the adults starve in the streets.

  • steve

    Ever notice how most other countries don’t have to deal with depressed kids or kids with ADHD??
    That’s because their kids aren’t spoiled, narcissistic brats with an entitlement mentality. Kids in other countries are too busy with chores that HELP the family unit and are not left alone for hours on end.
    We need to get back to TWO-PARENT households where one parent is always home to raise the kids!

    • db cooper

      wow aj, so much anger… i think you’re the one who should reevaluate his place in the world and view on life.

    • mornin joe

      Right On Steve … I call it the narcissist network. There are no personal relationships aside from those fake ‘wanna be’ fantasy virtual world ones that Facebook, Myspace and all the other trash sites offer to kids which allows them to lie about what kind of human they really are. I am disappointed in the founder of Facebook, an educated young man, that was looking first to make a buck without earning it instead of concerning himself with the social ramnifications of his ‘for profit’ scheme.

      • blusafire

        Facebook is designed for adults…not teenagers.

      • sam

        I call it either “Egobook”, or “Spacebook”. I feel like I’m now in High School forever – YIKES!!!!

      • aj

        Another moron that actually believes the S*&T you just said. You know what, if you’re that much of a loser that you can’t handle your own situation in life (and, by the way….nobody’s forcing you to use Facebook), than STF off it!

    • Sudden

      I agree with you 100%.

    • Bruce Schutter

      Amen to that

  • Fred

    How about no internet access ?

  • Illogicbuster

    Amazing! Before “child psych’s existed in this country there were FAR fewer child suicides and ZERO kids shooting kids at schools. Z E R O

    • Richard

      Child Psychology grew out of a need to help kids, as an answer to things like school shootings. It didn’t cause them.

      • Jennifer

        Bułłshìt, we ALL know these things didn’t exist before child psychology.

      • Spocktor Dock

        Child psychology was the wrong response to the then-small problem.
        Most child psych strategies aactually created new problems.
        Spock admitted years too late that he had noooo idea.
        I love the Geico commercial with the drill seargent therapist. That approach would work far better.
        BTW, everyone talks a good story but nobody is sincere. Note the Facebooh link in the article.

      • uwantthetruth?

        Wanna help kids? Take the belt off and wear em out! Child discipline has gone to the wayside in America and it’s a true shame.

      • Illogicbuster

        Sorry, shootings started happening AFTER children were being given phych drugs and counselling. NOT before. Do some research.

    • Betsy

      Wrong. A freshman shot himself at my junior high back in the early seventies. Well before the treatment of childhood mental illness. Real depression is an organic illness, not made-up because kids are brats.

      • Illogicbuster

        Wrong. The administration of psychiatric drugs to school children has been happening since the late 60’s. Nice try. ALSO, children shooting children at schools didn’t start until YEARS after this drugging trend.

    • Tony Miller

      Thank you illogicabuster for busting the attempted cons of these pill pushers that fail to beat a placebo in a vast majority of trials and studies. They deserve prison for putting ten million kids on these very dangerous drugs all for profit. They should be held responsible for the deaths they caused. See the link below

  • Hilda Taylor

    Oh, please!!! In the “ancient days” of the mid- ’60s when I was in junior high and high school we had “slam books,” which contained often cruel commentaries on everyone from principals to classmates. Everyone would sign in with a number at the front of the book and use the number as a signature for each observation on subsequent pages. The most popular or prettiest or most handsome, or the coolest jocks, would get almost all favorable comments; the bulk of the remarks on the pages of the less popular or less fortunate were uniformly pretty negative. Certainly not high tech, though probably as pervasive as Facebook, however, I do not recall articles being published on how these rudimentary communication devices caused depression in adolescents, though no doubt they added to the discomfort of a few. Life is not a rose garden, but the path to adulthood is full of thorns, regardless of the time period or technology in use. Growing up is the best cure for teen angst.

    • K

      Same mentality but not as pervasive. That is the problem – the voyeuristic access.
      I suggest not participating in Facebook if you don’t want your life put under a microscope. It is definately not the venue to boost one’s self-esteem.

      • cosmicwxdude

        I don’t have a facebook account and never will, god willing

    • Mary Gordon

      I imagine a few lives could be ruined by a slam book. Who wants ugly comments circulated about them? Kids can be so cruel.

  • Leroy

    I think that a kid needs to be of ‘age’ (18 or older) to be able to access a social website. I know of 12 year olds that are on facebook and they should not be allowed.

    • Britt Combest Thames

      i think it is OK for younger kids UNDER supervision and when they are ONLY allowed to talk to family or a few close friends

  • keith

    parents aren’t involved enough if they are letting their kids live on facebook and not know what they are doing….parents today are vastly different than parents were when most of us grew up….we didn’t have a computer or video games to really keep us inside. We were outside playing until dark with our friends….thats the problem, is parents use the internet to babysit their kids

    • TF

      Although I agree with you about internet usage being too high with kids these days, I find myself asking “How were parents MORE involved with their kids when they were outside til dark? Who was babysitting them then?” I think the difference between then and now is that back then they were only exposed to their neighborhood. Now they’re exposed to the world.

  • Biff

    I like how this website gives you the option to connect to facebook at the bottom of the page.

    “Kids killing themselves over facebook! Post it on your wall to spread the word!”

  • Rich

    If I were given the task of destroying a generation of kids, I would invent ritalin, I-phones, facebook and goth hair dye.
    Overfeed them, under-exercise them, isolate them using I-gadgets, dumb them down, if they show any level of physical energy, drug them.
    Social networks aren’t social…but don’t tell them that. Above all, do NOT teach them right from wrong, much less mention God. A single, apathetic parent will create a lonely, rudderless kid.

    • mornin Joe

      Well said and a point EVERYONE should take seriously. If I had a bully or someone slandering me with rumors, I dealt with it and got through it. The shameless acts of kids and parents today on the Narcissist Networks have no idea of the irrepairable damage they are doing to future generations of Americans trying to pose as World leaders. We are becoming a culture of sue somebody, gutless worms with no courage to stand up and do the right thing without having a misleading identity to hide behind when doing so.

    • Fred

      > if they show any level of physical energy, drug them.

      Great comment. More to the point, if a boy shows any trait of masculinity, drug him. Make Adam sit still like Eve. There is no difference in the sexes – wrong.

    • Jen

      Excellent points, Rich! Give them all the material goods they want, put self-esteem above actual learning in schools, drug those (especially boys) who don’t sit lethargically at their desks, while at the same time giving them less parental attention, situational ethics instead of religious standards, and a perverted view of what’s important in life through a steady diet of reality TV, gossip magazines,movies and airbrushed ads. No wonder they’re depressed!

  • tim

    it’s good to see that there ARE still ppl left with a good sense of parenting. @ keith, it’s not just internet. it’s video games and reality tv too. but i couldn’t have said it better myself!

  • Morning Media Summary

    […] Doctors Warn About ‘Facebook Depression’ In Teens: “Add “Facebook depression” to potential harms linked with social media, an influential doctors’ group warns, referring to a condition it says may affect troubled teens who obsess over the online site.” Global Warming / Environment / Energy: […]

  • theshawn

    LOL, oh my Lord what a bunch of overthought baloney.

    Thanks to you “experts”, we can now look forward to Facebook being sued by greedy parents and lawyers who will claim their child was influenced into depression and need $10 million to become undepressed.

    The more the “experts” talk, the more common sense dies.

  • emom

    I also agree with kieth,,, to many kids today are arapped up into to grading other kids, WHY no need, so this is one mother totally invovled with her kid and showing right from wrong.

  • sarah

    Since, the Internet came into focus, we have kids who do not exercise, ridiculing other kids, spend too much time at their computers or on their cell phones. Years ago, we communicated in person, we spent more time outdoors than indoors. Life, as we know it today, has taken too much joy out of living. Pictures of groups of kids and smiling faces do not tell the story of their lives. They are just pictures that were posed for and do not represent necessarily a joyful life. I would not want to bring a child into this world today. Today, children are growing up in a world where they have more against them than for them. Progess in technology sometimes goes much too far and does more harm than good.

  • emom

    to many kids today are wrapped up into to grading other kids, WHY oh to hurt others, they are not out and about doing constructive stuff they are out and about lottering, gawking, ridiculing, just hanging out in a corner of a lot, mall, or play ground…. My kid will not do such stuff, I even told my kid No license till 19, YES I MEAN THAT I NEVER GOT MINE TILL 19 , No facebook for my kid, school is way more important,, as for reality tv, sure we watch it and then talk about it, we also watch educational programs, and yes my kid gets to watch cartoons, a good variety of shows, and music, and YES I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT MYKID DOES ALL THE TIME, FROM MORNING TILL NIGHT, AND MU KID IS HAPPY AND WELL ADJUSTED, we talk about everything and discuss the WRONGS IN THE WORLD. And yes I even discuss the stupidity of people that way my kid learns early on about what NOT to do . Even discuss this blog on many occasions.. BUT NO FACEBOOK ACCOUNT AT THIS POINT no need, . sorry message to go complete.

  • Liz

    I feel very sorry for kids today, sitting around from the time they’re toddlers in front of screens, instead of running wild outdoors with their friends and, later, actually having real friends with whom they interact in person. But I grew up in a two-parent household on a happy little street with lots of kids who were expected to play, then do chores, then sit down for dinner (no snacking all day from the refriergator or cupboard), be respectful of parents and others, go to church, all those things that today are considered “square.” Good luck now.

  • cosmicwxdude

    I hate facebook. I’ll never have an account. I like privacy.

  • Teddy Kennedy's SEARCH+RESCUE

    Were our founder alive today, he would spend your $$$$$ to study this problem further.

  • Toady

    Seems to me the problem is one of character education. Parents need to teach their kids to treat other kids respectfully, even the ones they don’t like.. A lot of bullying incidents could be avoided by teaching the importance of the golden rule.

    • Britt Combest Thames

      yes, and i think you can attribute the dying of the ‘golden rule’ to the decline of Christianity in part

  • Smus

    Well I think its pretty apparent what’s the true issue here. FB being open to the public. If it were still only college kids with a .edu account as the entry ticket you wouldn’t have to worry about some 13 year old kid getting their feelings hurt

    • Duh

      Yeah… only 13 year old kids get their feelings hurt.


    No need to be depressed.

    Just say SI SE PUEDE! SI SE PUEDE! As we continues to take back OUR LAND.

    • Sudden

      Right! And then I suppose that you will agree toleave so that the Indians can have it back! They were here before La Raza. What about that?

  • jaygee

    If someone wants to connect with a friend, why not just call them or meet them and TALK face to face? The term “Facebook Depression” is laughable.Even when you see two people walking or sitting together, they aren’t talking to eachother but rather somebody else. Something is wrong with this picture.Perhaps some of these so-called “parents” should stop paying the bill.

  • Matt

    I Xcelled my FB acct. months ago because FB tracks you even after you log out using cookie hacks. They can’t be trusted is the issue. They are watching you even when they say they are not. Nevermind ‘stalking’ from friends’ friends, you have a lot more to worry about from FB themselves purely in terms of violating your on-line privacy, gathering and marketing your surfing habits as collected data, etc.

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