With teens using social media more than ever, there's no shortage of doom and gloom about what the internet is doing to children. The latest threat being bandied about is "Facebook Depression," in which the constant barrage of smiling, happy friend updates amplifies a teen's feelings of inadequacy.
In all likelihood however, the dangers are overhyped. Facebook Depression is a real risk suggested by the American Academy of Pediatrics but it's just one risk in a document that is generally fairly positive about teen use of sites like Facebook. Additionally, Researchers are still unclear if this is a standalone condition or a simple online extension for teens who are already feeling depressed.
So is this really a new problem, or even one that's unique to teens? Instead of some unique form of depression this sounds more like a natural extension of the Facebook envy we've all felt from time to time. It's a fairly common experience to kick ourselves when we see friends out at a cool party we couldn't make it to or when someone makes a status update about their great new job. The grass is always greener and social media just gives us more chances to see the other side.
There are real dangers for kids using the internet, but this hand-wringing just distracts from them. The AAP suggests that social media does present dangerous situations for teens, such as Cyber-bullying, that can have real consequences--but they also suggest that there are real advantages for teens using social media.
The real solution here isn't to tout Facebook as some imaginary boogeyman causing depression in teens but to talk to kids about their time online. That's not just my opinion--it's the suggestion of the AAP itself, and it's the best way to make sure teens are using Facebook as a way to build healthy social relationships.
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