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It's Facebook's Fault Your Teen is Depressed

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Admit it. You can't stop. Morning, noon, night -- you're on Facebook. Now new research says excessive FBing may lead to anxiety and depression -- especially if you are a teenage girl.

teen girl looking depressed

Researchers at Stony Brook University in New York have found that too much Facebook usage leaves teen girls more prone to angst. The study, recently published in The Journal of Adolescence, found that teen girls who talked with their friends online had significantly higher levels of depression. One of the study's authors, psychology professor Dr. Joanne Davila, says "Texting, instant messaging and social networking make it very easy for adolescents to become even more anxious, which can lead to depression."

At issue is that social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace allow young girls to harp on their issues - over and over again ad nauseum. The study says this caused the participants to get stuck obsessing over a particular emotional setback, unable to move forward.

But isn't this all part of growing up -- especially for teen girls? Obsessing over a crush or an issue at school is part of life -- right? We all remember talking on the phone for hours about that boy in math class, agonizing when he asked Jennifer to the dance instead of us. Dr. Davila concedes that excessive commiseration is nothing new, but points out that it's the amount of the discussion that leads to the feelings of depression. She says, "[The girls] often don't realize that excessive talking is actually making them feel worse."

Is this something we moms should be concerned about? We talked to Dr. Lisa Boesky, psychologist and author of When to Worry: How to Tell if Your Teen Needs Help & What to Do About It for guidance.

"We need to be very careful about the conclusions we draw from this study," Dr. Boesky says. "Close friendships -- and talking about your problems with friends -- can be very helpful for teenage girls. There may be some girls who have other risk factors for depression and obsessing over their problems makes them feel worse."

She continues: "This is a small study of mostly Caucasian 13-year-olds. Friendships among teen girls, how they talk about their problems, and the manner in which today's technologically savvy teens communicate with each other is complex and more research is needed before we can apply these findings to adolescents as a whole."

If you DO think your teen is depressed, Dr. Lisa says to be on the lookout for the following signs and symptoms:

• Sadness, irritability, or having a short fuse
• Loss of interest in hobbies
• Weight loss or weight gain
• Sleeping too much or too little
• Moves more slowly or appears more restless than usual
• Repeated complaints of being tired, having no energy or aches/pains
• Always criticizing herself, pre-occupied with past mistakes and failures
• Distracted or forgetful
• Likes music, books or poetry with themes of death or destruction
• Has talked about wanting to be dead or being "unable to take it anymore"

If your teen has displayed several of the above symptoms for two weeks or more (especially if their schooling, relationships or family life are being affected), it is time to seek out a mental health professional who specializes in adolescents, says Dr. Boesky. "Your teen may or may not be depressed -- but you need to find out what is underlying their mood/behavior changes so you know what steps to take to help them," she says. "Any talk of suicide should be taken seriously and responded to immediately. Fortunately, most teens get bummed out or upset for a few days and then move on."

Does your teen spend too much time on the social networking sites? Are you concerned?

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13 comments so far | Post a comment now
jane doe February 4, 2009, 7:48 PM

I am depressed! :(

c February 4, 2009, 8:21 PM

Has it occurred to anyone that perhaps FB doesn’t cause depression amoung teens, but that depressed teens are perhaps more likely to reach out and communicate online via sites like FB?
There’s a correlation, but not necessarily causation…

get a grip February 4, 2009, 10:23 PM

Give me a break… now the internet programs are the cause of teens depression…..
Come on….
This is too much…..
I think I have heard it all now…..

Anonymous February 5, 2009, 12:11 AM

It’s a good thing these researchers never jump to conclusions or contradict each other.

Anonymous February 5, 2009, 10:16 AM

It has long been known that “venting” your problems just reinforces them in your head, and that repeatedly talking about negative thoughts and feelings will make them come back stronger and with greater frequency. Although no study is perfect and researchers do often find contradictory findings (supporting the need for meta-analysis to synthesize the findings and arrive at valid conclusions), this particular study’s findings are in concert with theories of emotion regulation. It makes good sense. I’m buying it.

Jena February 6, 2009, 2:44 PM

“She says, ‘[The girls] often don’t realize that excessive talking is actually making them feel worse.” Okay, that comment right there is going to make every man I know ecstatic! ;) “See, talking about stuff makes it worse, not better” Lord, I can hear it now LOL
On a more serious note, this kinda reminds me of the Role Playing Games/Music Causes Suicide binge the media went on in the 80’s & 90’s.

Youth Pastor February 11, 2009, 12:35 PM

For me, anything that takes up space in our lives can lead us to depression. In my life “depression” is a result of me missing intimate time in God’s word and on my knees. I think FB, MS, or anything that takes the place of your prayer time will lead to depression. My wife decided (without my advise) to delete her FB, because of the amount of time it required from her. She was missing out on the life that was all around her to engage in a life that lead to emotional death.

Anonymous February 11, 2009, 3:56 PM

OK, let’s get something straight here. Flawed research is flawed research regardless of where it comes from or what it’s about. I see no “controls” for this so-called study. And, as someone else mentioned, who ever said that the healthiest people are the ones venting on FB? But, at the same time, IF these results were valid we could say the same thing about these same people “talking for hours on the phone” about the same issues. What usually gets people off the issue is not where they are talking about, but someone else saying, “OK, get over it, move on.” That can be done as easily in person, on FB, on MS, on some “private” blog, etc.

LISA May 18, 2009, 3:11 PM

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K January 24, 2010, 12:32 AM

Facebook is so dangerous to me that when i write something down i tripple read what i said and make sure thats what i mean. Its just a huge drama site for the web.

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