Social media has been blamed for everything from divorce to bad grades. Now, add another potential danger to the list: "Facebook depression." The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that the site's status updates, friend tallying, and "photos of happy-looking people having great times" can make troubled tweens and teens feel even more alone and inadequate. "It's like a big popularity contest," says Abby Abolt, a Chicago high school sophomore, as quoted by the Associated Press. Is Facebook really crushing young egos?
Yes, and it's up to parents to combat this threat: "Facebook is great," says Dr. Lisa Dana at Baby Center, "but it has to be used to appropriately." Parents have to keep track of their kids' activity on social media, and talk to them about how they feel about it, just as they would any other part of teen life. So "friend" your children, make sure you know their passwords, and protect them from all the dangers lurking online. It's part of modern parenting.
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Don't believe the hype. Facebook helps troubled kids: "Another day, another story on the supposed dangers of social networking," says Amanda Marcotte at Slate. Sorry, I'm not buying the notion that Facebook is making cyberbullying worse, or that "the endless stream of grinning pictures and 'OMG my life is so awesome!' status updates" are making kids miserable. If anything, social media makes it easier to expose bullies, and to show suffering teens they're not alone.
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And this is hardly a full-blown psychiatric condition: Let's not turn Facebook into "some imaginary boogeyman causing depression in teens," says David Daw at PCWorld. "Facebook depression" isn't a "standalone condition;" it's more likely "a simple online extension for teens who are already feeling depressed." It's common for kids, or adults, to feel a twinge of envy when we think of our friends at a "cool party" we missed. "The grass is always greener and social media just gives us more chances to see the other side."
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