Doctors say what may seem fun and innocent may actually be leading teens into what's being termed "Facebook Depression."
If you're a teenager you're most likely on a social networking site like "Facebook." For most it's a fun, easy way to keep in touch and find out what's going on with friends. But new research shows a growing number of youngsters who obsess over the on-line sites may be headed down a troubled path.
The American Academy of Pediatrics warns of a new problem called "Facebook Depression." It results from being bombarded with friend tallies, status updates, and photos of people happy, having the time of their lives, when you are not.
"If I’m just like sad or something and just kind of chillin’ at home and I see pictures of people having a party I’m like oh that's awesome… like I’m not there... that's kind of depressing,” explained high school student Elizabeth Kisch. But Kisch also says she doesn't take Facebook too seriously.
“It's very easy to compare yourself to others when you just see what they show in their Facebook page which may or may not match reality,” explained Dr. Ken Ensroth, a child and adolescent psychiatrist.
Ensroth doesn't believe that social networking sites alone cause depression but says if a child already has a fragile self-esteem they can further damage it. That's because, for some, the sites can be perceived as a popularity contest.
“There's a real emphasis in some aspects of it... status… there's even a category… your status,” said Ensroth.
But he also points out much of what is posted on the sites isn't reality. The problem, he says, is that for some people the social networking world becomes their reality.
So how do parents know if their child is slipping into a "Facebook Depression." Dr. Ensroth says parents need to talk to their children, ask questions, and look for signs they're not happy.
“Stomach aches, lot of headaches... I’m sick I don't want to go to school... low energy... fatigue… trouble sleeping,” he explained.
Because while for most teens social networking is a positive experience, for others it can become a tangled troubled web.
Dr. Ensroth points out there are a lot of positive aspects of Facebook and other social networking sites. For one the sites can bring kids together and give them a place to share and make connections. They can also helps kids feel included when they may not otherwise feel that way.