Since its very beginnings, Facebook seems to have had a love-hate relationship with its users. Now, another controversy has emerged following the release of an American Academy of Pediatrics report addressing a new phenomenon described as “Facebook Depression.”
In the report, Facebook Depression is defined as “depression that develops when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites, such as Facebook, and then begin to exhibit classic symptoms of depression.” It also argues that these types of websites can create a skewed reality that makes teens feel alienated.
But is this enough to conclude that Facebook is causing more teens to be depressed? Many other resources are arguing that if Facebook causes depression, the same could be said for a teen sitting alone in the cafeteria. Whichever side you agree with, the fact is that teen depression is a serious issue. About 20% of teens will confront depression before they reach adulthood and about 5% are suffering from severe depression at any given time.
The Psychiatry Department at Miami Children’s Hospital has extensive experience helping children and adolescents with behavioral, social and emotional problems. Psychologist Dr. Sara Rivero-Conil, the department’s Clinical Manager, has helped many teens and their families cope with the effects of adolescent depression. “Adolescents with underlying poor self-esteem may be impacted by the sight of others enjoying activities or declaring their happiness. On the other hand, social media sites also allow for well-adjusted individuals to share ideas, emotions and feel connected. As a parent, you can set curfews or time limits around non-school-related activities and keep open communication with your children, allowing them to discuss their stressors, emotions and positive aspects of their day,” she said.
“Teen depression can affect anyone regardless of gender, ethnicity or social background,” said Dr. Rivero-Conil. “It’s important to be aware of the signs, which can include anger, irritability, withdrawal and frequent crying.”
So while we can’t be sure if Facebook is causing teens to become depressed, it is safe to conclude that monitoring your teen’s social media habits, along with their overall behavior and interests, can help you in identifying a potential problem and getting them the correct medical attention in time.
For more information on childhood and adolescent depression, visit www.mch.com.