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“Facebook Depression” – it’s a real affliction facing adolescents who spend a lot of time on social networking sites, according to a new report published this week by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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Sites like Facebook can make depression and low self-esteem worse for teens who already feel as though they do not fit in said Dr. Gwenn O’Keeffe, the lead author of American Academy of Pediatrics social media guidelines.

“The prominent number of friends’ tally, constant status updates and photos of happy-looking people having great times, can make shy or socially-isolated teens feel worse if they think they don’t measure up…,” O’Keeffe says. “It can be more painful than sitting alone in a crowded school cafeteria or other real-life encounters that can make kids feel down, 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.”

MSNBC interviewed adolescents about the new report and the kids agreed with the findings, noting, “It’s like a big popularity contest — who can get the most friend requests or get the most pictures tagged. 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.”

The new guidelines focus on the much-publicized suicide of Phoebe Prince who committed suicide last year after being bullied both in real life and online and stress the importance of parents making sure they are aware of what their children are doing on the internet. However, researchers cannot agree about whether or not ‘Facebook depression’ is a stand-alone illness, or if the condition is an extension of depressive disorders that teens already suffer from.

The researchers stress that “parents shouldn’t get the idea that using Facebook is going to somehow infect their kids with depression,” for as adolescent medical specialist Dr. Megan Moreno, from the University of Wisconsin has found, the opposite is in fact true of some Facebook users. She said that using Facebook can enhance feelings of social connectedness among well-adjusted kids, and have the opposite effect on those prone to depression.

The only thing anyone can agree upon, is that parents need to monitor their child’s online habits, in the hope that another tragic event like what happened to Phoebe Prince, never happens again.

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