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Doctors warn of ‘Facebook depression’

Associated Press / March 28, 2011

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CHICAGO — 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.

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

But Facebook can be a particularly tough social landscape to navigate for young people 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.

The guidelines urge pediatricians to encourage parents to talk with their children about online use and to be aware of Facebook depression, cyberbullying, sexting, and other online risks. They were published online today in Pediatrics, the academy’s official journal.

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

It can be more painful than sitting alone in a school cafeteria or other real-life encounters that can make kids feel down, O’Keeffe said, because Facebook provides a skewed view of what is really going on.

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