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.

A NEW CONDITION?

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.

SKEWED VIEW OF LIFE

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.

‘IT’S LIKE A BIG POPULARITY CONTEST’

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.

‘IT CAN GO TOO FAR’

“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.)

Comments (138)
  1. MichaelEdits says:

    Really? I attended at least 30 schools growing up and was unpopular at all of them, in person and not on Facebook, and I didn’t give a sh__. Blaming Facebook ranks right up there with blaming the TV, the movies, or (see how old I am) Dungeons and Dragons.

  2. Jen says:

    My children(much older teens) and I all have Facebooks accounts. I know it may seem niave to think that no one could ever be cruel on this type of medium but….hello??? why would you be “friends” with those who would say mean things to you or belittle you. I think facebook allows people a little more freedom than they have in “real life” because you can DELETE a friend on Facebook…no harm done. When people are mean to you in real life you actually have to deal with it. To be honest, all I see on any of our Facebook walls are people who are encouraging others and giving compliments. It’s almost a given if you are down and say that you are SOMEONE on the network will boost you up.

    1. Jen says:

      BTW I am a different “Jen ” than the one above!

  3. Jack T says:

    There’s an easy solution. Simply don’t participate on Facebook.

  4. ralphalterman says:

    I got off CIABook a long time ago

    1. thecosmicwad says:

      here’here’

  5. ladyserenity92 says:

    JAs! Listen up! You and most of humanity are responable for what’s happening to us and the world. Most of it came out great;most of the time it just gotten worst. Whose side are you on, people. The freedom fighters or the dirty fighters.
    There is no longer a middle ground. Stand up or step back!

  6. thecosmicwad says:

    i refuse to get a facebook page.you think you and your 2654 friends are the only ones who might know a thing or two about you? what about when the internet changes the rules on regulation? people..mostly children are feeding themselves into a data base and there is alot of information that will be cross referenced by the questions youve answered by”your friends” in the past.
    think..before you speak..suffer for your words.
    all of your answers provide a didtal fingerprint of who you are.except you wont know until its way too late who is viewing you from the otherside of the internet.
    so…what kind of cake are you?

  7. rundog67 says:

    trust me that is not why I don’t have one.

    *~Check out my website at authorlauren.wordpress.com please comment~*

  8. jay jay says:

    I LOVE FACEBOOK!

  9. fans pan says:

    facebook is cool but it can get old after time goes on

  10. fans pan says:

    hi whats up this is fun lol rofl

  11. Krista says:

    This is stupid. Depression can happen anywhere. Kids can be left out in school, on facebook, at parties, during sports, anywhere. You can’t go saying that some online social site is a specific form of depression. Last I heard, there’s no such thing as ballet practice depression. Kids will always make fun of other kids, and there’s nothing we can do about it. They have been doing it for all of existence, cyberbullying is just a new way to do it. The most you can do is teach your children not to do it, and how to handle it if it happens to them.

  12. Lynnatic says:

    http://lynnatic.blogspot.com/2011/11/my-life-without-facebook.html#more

    I talk about it in my blog article as well, cincerning my own experience of it…I’m sure that not only teens are concerned by the phenomenon…

  13. Gute Filme says:

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