Facebook puts vulnerable children at risk of depression, warn doctors *
The usual scary media headlines accompany a new report entitled: The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents and Families published in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics this month.
Journalists have seized on the use of the term “Facebook Depression” despite this relating to a single paragraph of the report which considers both the benefits and risks of children and adolescents using networks like Facebook.
However, the article written to give advice to Pediatricians in their work with parents, does say:
“Researchers have proposed a new phenomenon called “Facebook depression” 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. Acceptance by and contact with peers is an important element of adolescent life. The intensity of the online world is thought to be a factor that may trigger depression in some adolescents”
This analysis is hotly disputed by Dr John Grohol who accuses the report writers of “shoddy research” in his blog post “Pediatrics get it wrong about “Facebook Depression” on the PsychCentral website. He suggests the relationship between depression and social media is a much more complicated and nuanced one and cites various studies which show that online interaction can lead to less isolation and help those already depressed rasie tehir low self-esteem.
I have to say I’m with Dr Grohol because his take on depression, teens and social media sems to fit with the analysis by Sonia Livingstone on the results of the Risks and safety for children on the Internet report which she helped to create and surveyed 1032 9-16 year olds in the UK as part of a larger EU wide survey. When I heard her talk at the Learning Without Frontiers conference in February she suggested that most teens navigate the online world well and we need to help those who are already vulnerable because they are the ones who are vulnerable online too. So if you’re a isolated lonely teen I’m sure the lack of FB friends is one more thing that could lead to depression.