Depression(136025)Credit: mtbrg

Many teenagers use social networking sites, such as Facebook and others. For many teens, it is a fun pastime and a way to keep in touch with friends and other teens. For some teens, however, social networking can have the opposite effect. New research has determined that an increasing number of teens who obsess over online social networking sites may be headed for emotional problems, such as depression and anxiety.

Social Networking

Social networking is the use of dedicated websites to communicate informally with other users, or to find people with similar interests. Social networking sites, such as Facebook, focus on building and reflecting social relations among people who share similar interests and activities. Such sites offer a platform or a form of representation of each user, often referred to as a profile. Such sites provide social links, email, instant messaging, and a variety of other services.

Facebook and Depression

According to Lindsey Tanner’s article, “Docs Warn about Teens and Facebook Depression”, depression from overly using and obsessing with Facebook is an additional potential harm linked to social networking.

Sarah Perez, in her article “New Illness-Facebook Depression?” reports that  research done at Stony Brook University in New York has determined that too much Facebook usage can leave users more at risk for depression and anxiety, particularly teens. Teenage girls seem to be more at risk for Facebook depression.

The study psychologically evaluated a group of 13-year old girls. One year later, the researchers followed up with the girls in the study group by testing them for symptoms of depression. The research showed that the girls who excessively talked with their friends about their issues had significantly higher levels of depression when tested a year later. The research findings were published in The Journal of Adolescence.

The authors of the study clarify their work by stating that, though the article examined the research results in the context of Facebook, the actual study did not examine Facebook. However, Dr. Davila, the lead researcher in the study, has stated, "Texting, instant messaging and social networking make it very easy for adolescents to become even more anxious, which can lead to depression. Teenage friends have always chatted about their problems, asking each other why a boy didn't call or if they should break up with a boyfriend. But frequently discussing the same problem can intensify into an unhealthy activity for those who use Facebook and other electronic means to obsess about it."

 Dr. Ken Ensroth, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, believes that it’s easy for teens to compare themselves to others when they see what they show in their Facebook pages. Though Ensroth doesn't believe that social networking sites alone cause depression, he believes that teens with issues of fragile self-esteem can further damage their self-esteem if they become obsessed with Facebook and similar social networking sites. For some teens the sites can be perceived as a popularity contest which can be emotionally damaging.

In conclusion, there are many positive aspects of Facebook and similar social networking sites. Such social networking sites can bring teens together and give them a place to share and connect. Such sites can also help teenagers feel included when they may not otherwise feel a sense of inclusion among peers.

However, to ensure that teens aren’t slipping into Facebook depression, Dr. Ensroth suggests that parents need to talk to their children, ask pertinent questions, and look for signs that they may be depressed. Such signs could include frequent stomach aches and headaches, fatigue, sleep problems, and not wanting to go to school.