By Shira Scott, GalTime.com
Your kids' safety isn't the only thing you may need to worry about if they spend a lot of time on social media sites. Some doctors are now warning about what they call "Facebook depression." It's a condition that affects preteens and teens who obsess about their social media standing. The symptoms are the same as those of classic depression. Kids with poor self-esteem are most at risk.
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The pressure 'tweens and teens feel to measure up online is starting to take its toll, according to Dr. Gwenn O'Keefe, pediatrician and lead author of the just released American Academy of Pediatrics social media guidelines.
According to a recent poll by Common Sense Media, 22% of teenagers log on to their favorite social media site more than 10 times a day. More than half of 'tweens and teens log on more than once a day.
As a mother of four, I can tell you that the number of friends a kid has on Facebook is like a status symbol these days. A child with hundreds and hundreds of friends "wins" the online popularity contest, while someone in the double digits may feel serious anxiety.... especially if he or she is glued to the computer reading other people's status updates and comments, or checking out photos of kids they know having fun...without them.
Dr. O'Keefe says that feeling like a social media outcast "can be more painful than sitting alone in a crowded school cafeteria." That's especially true if cyber-bulling is involved. The Academy warns that online harassment "can cause profound psychosocial outcomes."
The new AAP guidelines recommend parents talk to their children about their use of social media sites and make them aware of online risks including cyber-bullying and sexting. The guidelines also:
- Advise parents to work on their own "participation gap" in their homes by becoming better educated about the many technologies their children are using.
- Advise parents to develop a family online-use plan, with an emphasis on citizenship and healthy behavior.
- Advise parents to supervise online activities via active participation and communication, not just via monitoring software.
The AAP report isn't only about the potential negatives of social media sites. It also points out the positives, like the their ability to enhance communication, help develop technical skills, connect kids to educational and charitable opportunities, and more.
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