Teens Facebook Depression Is On The Rise

Pediatrics fraternity has now proclaimed Facebook depression as one of the many faces of childhood depression, a pressing child health issue of the recent times.

Reports state that 1 in 5 adolescent suffer from teenage depression. All of it cannot be attributed to the popularity of social media sites among tweens and teens.

Nevertheless, studies have shown that 25 percent of children who regularly engage in social networking develop the symptoms suggestive of clinical depression.

Facebook is the world’s most popular site for social networking and so it is named as “Facebook Depression”.

Over the last decade, interaction and entertainment on social media has grown exponentially among teenagers.

Though the newly discovered cause of teenage depression is named after Facebook, there are many more portals to social networking that entice the tweens and the teens. Most commonly known are MySpace and Twitter; gaming sites and virtual worlds such as Club Penguin, Second Life and the Sims; video sites such as YouTube; and blogs.

More than 75 percent of teenagers and middle childhood children have an unlimited excess to internet. The privacy of personal laptop, i-pad and/or high-tech cell phones further gives them the convenience to indulge into unrestrained activities in the cyber space.

Related statistics show that about 22 percent of teens log on to social media sites more than ten times a day. This inordinate social networking precipitates clinical facebook depression among young children who may already be facing stress due to unfavorable environmental influences.

Most parents are caught unaware when their child presents with
signs of depression.
Preoccupied in their demanding daily schedule, parents are unable to track teens’ interaction with their newly acquired social circle in the cyberspace.

As a parent myself, I think it is almost next to impossible to track children’s cyberspace activities. It is certainly not like keeping an eye on ones child while he/she is playing out in the yard in a well defined group of friends.

Implications of social networking on psychosocial well being

  • Online social networking amplifies the dark side of any form of socialization, more so if it crosses the normal limits of reasonability.

  • It detracts children from their studies, outdoor sports, sleep and parental interaction.

  • Teens' social and emotional development is skewed due to long distance communication with the images in the cyberspace for a significant number of hours every day.

  • The unrealistic beliefs and attitudes that are projected on the web influence the immature minds. Even at home, they are far away, somewhere in the cyberspace engrossed in the activities of the unknown images, their new peers.

  • Teens are in the crucial formative phase of childhood development, when they learn by observing and imitating all that they see. - And the social media screen is dominated by peers – a strong influence during preteen and teen years.

Facebook is today’s youth club

It is on the Facebook like social media where youths today post their accomplishments and exhibit beautiful pictures. It has an easy access and is open 24 hours 7 days a week. Everyone there seems to be having a gala time.

Competitive instinct of youth is thus ignited and inquisitiveness is aroused. Children peep in to each others personal life, the glamorized presentation of manipulated truth.

Yes, what comes on Facebook is not all real. No one advertises their dirty linen, short comings and set backs to the public and social networking is public, where nothing remains a secret.

Jealousy takes the better of them. Each one starts posting more and more information about oneself with an intention to impress.

An unhealthy self absorption dominates the disturbed psyche, which distorts teens’ sense of self.

Popularity among the peers is desired by all. During the formative years, the importance of peer acceptance is crucial for optimal development of high self esteem. Therefore, on Facebook, there is competition even for number of friends an individual has and this can contribute to the causes of Facebook depression.

Facebook is a place which gives teenagers unhindered opportunity to advertise themselves round the clock. Their ability to feel empathy towards others gets blunted.

Facebook walls get loaded with amazing creative skills that jubilates ones superiority over the other, while hiding the traumatized self-esteem.
Facebook depression thus sets in and the seeds of cyber bullying are sowed.

Over indulgence in social media activities interferes with real life relationships. Heart broken with soured relationship the youths start stalking their ex. partner, but it only leads to more depression and isolation.

Emotionally traumatized teenagers then start craving for peer acceptance, company and admiration. To attract attention they give in to sexting. Consequently, the teenagers are engulfed by Facebook depression in addition to the other ill effects associated with sexting activities.

Some more effects of Facebook depression

  • Social isolation.
  • Feeling of “hopelessness” due to information overload.
  • May turn to risky Internet sites and blogs for “help”.
  • Try solace in substance abuse and alcoholism.
  • Get drawn in to unsafe sexual practices.
  • Aggressive and/or self destructive behaviors.
  • Loose grades at school and absenteeism from school rises.
  • Eating disorders.
  • Psychosomatic symptoms like stomach pain, sleep disturbances.
  • Anxiety disorder.
  • Narcissism.
  • Impaired ability to concentrate and focus on a particular subject.
  • Develop tendency to run into undue risk; road traffic accidents.

Can prohibition of social media prevent Facebook depression?

No, do not completely prohibit social networking.
Social media have become an integral part of modern teen culture. Not having an account in Facebook in present times, is a cause of embarrassment for today's teenagers.

The peer group scoffing traumatizes their self esteem and imperils healthy personality development.

Most teenagers will then get into the wrong practice of doing things on the quiet. This will not only jeopardize the parent-child relationship, but will add to child's insecurity and social maladjustment along with clinical depression.

The brighter side of social media sites like Facebook

  • Access to information and career options.
  • Helps keeping in touch with friends, classmates, teachers and adult mentors.
  • Social interaction teaches children to get along with different types of people.
  • Children learn to deal with various social situations.
  • They develop ability to show empathy towards a distressed person in the community.
  • Positive results of the help offered gives a good feeling and boosts self esteem.
  • Social support network is created.
  • Brings out creativity.
  • Teaches to share.
  • Appreciate others accomplishments.
  • Curb the instinct of jealousy.
  • Sets up healthy competitive spirit.

How can we prevent Facebook depression?

Inordinate social networking is harmful to child’s psych. Internet has widened our horizon of socialization. In cyber space, many contacts are just images of the unknown people.

Moderation of lifestyle with high central values should be the part of child rearing. Permissive parenting leads to poor self-regulating capacity and can result in Facebook depression in face of high efficiency technology at the fingertips.

Discipline of safe media usage needs to be ingrained in children. Media education should be imparted with open mindedness and strong psychological support towards modern youth culture.

All three major influences on children, parents, teachers and pediatricians, need to understand the expanding horizon of tweens’ and teens’ social network and the potential it has to influence their psychosocial development , emotional wellbeing, and self esteem.

All lines of communication with children should be kept open in effort to steal in to the busy social schedule the teenagers have online.

Minimize the chances of Facebook depression by

  • Being vigilant of the mood changes: negative mood states like depression or irritability should arouse concern.
  • Looking for the cause of changes in the mood in child’s environment and psychosocial influences.
  • Talking to children to find out the underlying cause of mounting stress in them.
  • Overcoming all possible causes and/or likely source of depression.
  • Introducing pleasurable activities in every day routine.
  • Helping children develop competence and thus help to enhance their self-esteem.
  • Developing skills in children, which they can use to overcome the adversities.
  • Modifying children’s lifestyle by instilling discipline in their time management, such as proper school attendance, personal care, regular eating and sleeping hours, outdoor activities, exercise, study times, social networking and relaxation.
  • Sharing the daily events with supportive mentors (usually parents, teachers and pediatricians) and friends.
  • Teach media literacy for safe use of media

Why are some children more prone to Facebook depression?

  • Children with poor self esteem, who wish to be in the crowd but feel shunned.
  • Inherent depressive tendency when faced with unfavorable environmental situations.
  • Impersonal nature of media can often let emotional stress go unnoticed.
  • Invasive and aggressive self advertising affects growing minds’ psyche.
  • Inappropriate content on web.
  • Envy.
  • Over ambitious with intense competitive attitude.
  • Children in bad company – either in real life or in cyber space.
  • Cyber bullies and the bullied.
  • Excessive exposure to electromagnetic field due to inordinate internet use can lead to depression.

Causes of inordinate social networking

  • Loneliness.
  • Unhappy family resulting in poor ties and support.
  • Poor social circle in real life.
  • Poorly developed outdoor games/sports.
  • Peer influence.
  • Bad company.

For related topics of interest, kindly see the right column.

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Media Effects on Child Health

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