A study released today by The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on the impact of social media on children, adolescents and families, cites that ‘Facebook depression’ is one of the risk factors that teens may face with overexposure to social media. Facebook depression is an affliction that results from establishing a presence on social networking sites, spending a great deal of time on these sites and then feeling unaccepted among peers online. Similar to depression in the offline world due to lack of acceptance, Facebook depression can cause anxiety and withdrawal, as well as a propensity towards engaging in risky activities such as substance abuse, unsafe sex or self-destructive behaviors.
The study found that the interaction these teens have on social networking sites is on the rise with 22% of teenagers logging onto their favorite social networking sites more than 10 times a day. With 75% of teens owning cell phones, the study states, “a large part of this generation’s social and emotional development is occurring while on the Internet and on cell phones.” Along with Facebook depression, other dangers of increased exposure to social media include cyberbullying, sexting and exposure to inappropriate content.
There are many things parents can do to help mitigate these risks. First, no kids under the age of 13 should be on Facebook at all. When your kids are of age to begin engaging more independently online, constant communication with them, getting familiar with their online activity habits, setting a good example of how to use social media and setting ground rules are all ways to make the Internet safer.
Before you unplug all the computers in your house and cancel your Internet service, the study also points to benefits of social media interaction including, developing a teen’s sense of self, expansion of online connections and opportunities for community engagement.
For more detailed tips and advice on monitoring kids’ social media behavior, please view our complementary coverage of the report, The Secret Life of Kids Online: What You Need to Know and 13 Tips for Monitoring Kids’ Social Media.