In a recently published study by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), it seems that teen angst is evident in the online world as well, as researchers believe there’s a clear evidence of a “facebook depression” effect.
It’s considered that more than 70% of American teens and young-adult who have an active internet connection use social networking sites, and more than 50% access a social networking website at least once a day. Clearly, their lives start to revolve more and more around the online world, one that can be just as mean as the real one, which prompts pediatricians and psychologists alike to advice parents to be very attentive.
“We don’t want to demonize the online world or say that social media is bad,” said report author Gwenn Schurgin O’Keeffe of the AAP’s council on communications and media. “What we’d like is for people to slow down a bit and get to know what is happening in kids’ lives.”
O’Keefe is very right. Throwing away a child’s computer or cellphone won’t solve the issue, if anything it will make him feel even more frustrated. Cyber-bullying, privacy infringement and especially child pornography are real perils a child may experience when left unsupervised, and the best way to deal with them is for parents to talk to their children about online networking and to teach them how to safely navigate them. Just as would a parent tell his child not to talk to strangers, the same parent should advice a parent not to click the “Accept friendship” button to anyone.
The facebook study also concludes that the various online risks a child might endure are extensions of real-world interactions. Socially unadapted teens who have problems interacting with peers in the real world might probably face the same issues online too. Parents and pediatricians have begun to report “Facebook depression,” in which a teen becomes anxious and moody after spending a lot of time on the popular social networking site. When a kid with social problems doesn’t get his friend request accepted or doesn’t get any kind of response to his online social activity, it’s very likely for him to get distressed.
“Kids can be insecure in general, so when you take a kid that is having trouble with peers and having trouble to begin with, Facebook can heighten those anxieties to a huge degree,” O’Keeffe said.
O’Keeffe recommends healthychildren.org and the media-review site commonsensemedia.org as well as her book, “Cybersafe: Protecting and Empowering Kids in the Digital World of Texting, Gaming, and Social Media” (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2010) for advice on how to approach the topic.
“In the end what everyone has to focus on is helping our kids be good citizens,” O’Keeffe said. “And what that means in today’s world is including technology in the mix.”