CHICAGO (AP) — Add “Facebook depression” to potential harms linked with social media, an influential doctors’ group warns, referring to a condition it says may affect troubled teens who obsess over the online site.

Dr. Gwen O’Keeffe of the American Academy of Pediatrics Weighs In on KNX 1070

Researchers disagree on whether it’s simply an extension of depression some kids feel in other circumstances, or a distinct condition linked with using the online site.

But there are unique aspects of Facebook that can make it a particularly tough social landscape to navigate for kids already dealing with poor self-esteem, said Dr. Gwenn O’Keeffe, a Boston-area pediatrician and lead author of new American Academy of Pediatrics social media guidelines.

With in-your-face friends’ tallies, status updates and photos of happy-looking people having great times, Facebook pages can make some kids feel even worse if they think they don’t measure up.

It can be more painful than sitting alone in a crowded school cafeteria or other real-life encounters that can make kids feel down, O’Keeffe said, because Facebook provides a skewed view of what’s really going on. Online, there’s no way to see facial expressions or read body language that provide context.

The guidelines urge pediatricians to encourage parents to talk with their kids about online use and to be aware of Facebook depression, cyberbullying, sexting and other online risks. They were published online Monday in Pediatrics.

Abby Abolt, 16, a Chicago high school sophomore and frequent Facebook user, says the site has never made her feel depressed, but that she can understand how it might affect some kids.

“If you really didn’t have that many friends and weren’t really doing much with your life, and saw other peoples’ status updates and pictures and what they were doing with friends, I could see how that would make them upset,” she said.

“It’s like a big popularity contest – who can get the most friend requests or get the most pictures tagged,” she said.

Also, it’s common among some teens to post snotty or judgmental messages on the Facebook walls of people they don’t like, said Gaby Navarro, 18, a senior from Grayslake, Illinois. It’s happened to her friends, and she said she could imagine how that could make some teens feel depressed.

“Parents should definitely know” about these practices,” Navarro said. “It’s good to raise awareness about it.”

The academy guidelines note that online harassment “can cause profound psychosocial outcomes,” including suicide. The widely publicized suicide of a 15-year-old Massachusetts girl last year occurred after she’d been bullied and harassed, in person and on Facebook.

“Facebook is where all the teens are hanging out now. It’s their corner store,” O’Keeffe said.

She said the benefits of kids using social media sites like Facebook shouldn’t be overlooked, however, such as connecting with friends and family, sharing pictures and exchanging ideas.

“A lot of what’s happening is actually very healthy, but it can go too far,” she said.

Dr. Megan Moreno, a University of Wisconsin adolescent medicine specialist who has studied online social networking among college students, said using Facebook can enhance feelings of social connectedness among well-adjusted kids, and have the opposite effect on those prone to depression.

Parents shouldn’t get the idea that using Facebook “is going to somehow infect their kids with depression,” she said.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments (12)
  1. Beth says:

    don’t get it. how can high school teens be depressed over something they are not supposed to have access to until they are 18.

    1. TT says:

      point well taken …..

    2. SL says:

      That would be the case, they are not suppose to have access until they are 18, but alot of kids of all age groups are finding ways to gain access weather it’s giving false b-dates years and stuff. If their friends push them to get it or just the media publicity that this is the cite to go to, they will find ways to gain access. Also how can you talk to your kids about things like this when you don’t even know they have access, because they were not to be in it to begin with. Very tough subject.

    3. Sue says:

      Obviously you don’t have teenagers! Social media and Facebook is the way teens communicate.

  2. Dominic Pace says:

    It’s not about depression, it’s about having our own identity again.. We’re all becoming just one, dull anti-social society, with everyone trying to ‘one-up’ each other on FB. I’m still on it, but I’ve removed everyone.. I hated the fact that I couldn’t really comment on anything w/o everyone seeing what I posted. No one can even joke in a politically incorrect way anymore.. which I cannot stand.. I started a Fan Page for my Movie Location tour, as I’d still like to share what may be of interest to others.. but other than that, I cannot stand everyone’s pointless statuses anymore..

  3. jim says:

    depression would be solved if kids dropped their 500 online friends for one good real life friend that they can go and play catch with, go fishing or build a fort or whatever.

    Quite striking that kids playing farmville in a dark room for 18 hours end up depressed.

  4. Dream says:

    Facebook can lead to bad things. Chating can lead you to consequences!

  5. Justin Bieber says:

    Yes twitter is better just conect with me!

  6. Parent of 2 says:

    Social Media = Big Brother, Adults and Teens should thik of it that way. I am a mom of 2 teens, while I don’t like FB – I have found it helpful with homework and friends out of town. It is unfortunate that most teens don’t know how to write a letter and no one has 500 friends unless your are Oprah, and I think she is only friends with Gail.

  7. Jack says:

    I’ll take my dog over 500 “online friends”

  8. zmfrederick says:


    Nice post about Facebook usage. I just wrote an article summing up a whole bunch of different studies and surveys about Facebook addiction, the concept of frenemies, and why depression and other things affect heavy social media users.

    Here’s the link if you want to check it out:

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