There are many obvious reasons for parents to monitor their child’s Facebook activity. But a recent article points out a very valid and often overlooked concern that can face these children. Dr. Gwenn O’Keeffe, a Boston-area pediatrician and lead author of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ new social media guidelines, says that professionals and parents alike are several steps behind technology when it comes to preparing our children to safely utilize these social media sites. Dr. O’Keefe said that this generation “emerged online before we taught them the dangers of being online.”
In addition to the predatory cautions parents give children, they should also be looking out for signs of what has been termed “Facebook depression” The report defines this as “depression that develops when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites, such as Facebook,” and which can be caused by cyberbullying, sexual activity over the internet, and virtual peer pressure.
Teens who already feel less than adequate may encounter additional pressure to measure up online. If they are feeling depressed already, the added stress of trying to compete with the popularity of Facebook friends may increase their symptoms. In addition, cyberbullying, which has been linked to teen suicides, can exacerbate any feelings of low self-esteem and the academy guidelines note that online harassment “can cause profound psychosocial outcomes.”
In a recent article, Dr. Megan Moreno, an adolescent specialist at the University of Wisconsin, said that parents should not ban social media altogether, but rather proceed with caution. Dr. Moreno has conducted her own research and her findings show that social networking sites like Facebook can have positive implications on the social lives of children who are otherwise self-assured and well adjusted, even though she found that children who are at a higher risk for depression can be adversely affected by the same technology.
© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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