Consider this … You are contacted by a childhood friend on Facebook, who has 1200 friends. You, on the other hand, have just over 100 friends listed on your own Facebook page. What kind of thoughts immediately run through your mind?
Might you wonder why this friend of yours is so popular and you are not? Or, maybe you feel slightly embarrassed that this other person may perceive you as something less than a people person, even if you really are – maybe, just not on Facebook?
The World to a Child is Imposing Enough without New Threads
As an adult, you may be much better-equipped and emotionally mature enough to deal with these types of (sometimes) unsettling thoughts and emotions. To an already at-risk child, the misinterpretation of the written word and / or a misunderstanding within the context of some casual situation may be harmful to his or her mental health. The child is much more apt to internalize and dwell on feelings of rejection than most adults, who are able to reconcile these emotions with the understanding that we are all capable of making misinterpretations and having misunderstandings; that it is perfectly acceptable to have fewer friends than someone else (often it's a quality over quantity matter anyway); and that rejection – when it inevitably does come- is a part of normal, daily living.
The first week of May is Children's Mental Health Awareness Week. It is the proper time to reflect on how the changing ways of the world may be impacting our children's mental health. Actually, we should be interested in this area of concern, every single day of the year. It is a critical consideration. If we can shield a child from any form of mental illness, we can help assure them of a happy and productive future. The cumulative effect of this kind of pro-activity is a much better world filled with well-adjusted children and adults. That being said, we have our work cut out for us with many great mental health challenges ahead.
Who Ever Heard of "FaceBook Depression?"
There is a new and troubling mental health diagnosis stemming from children's overuse of Social Media. It's called "FaceBook Depression." The American Academy of Pediatrics has validated this diagnosis and linked it to depression and eating disorders.
Dr. Michael Brody is the Chair of the Media Committee for the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. He recently shared the following comments regarding the American Academy of Pediatrics report attributed to the study, which he personally impacted.
"Kids are very competitive, and kids want to be chosen," explains Dr. Brody. When children see that some of their friends have more Facebook friends than they do, there are those who may feel inadequate. After reviewing a series of upbeat comments on their friend's Facebook pages, some may gain the impression that people they know and want to be popular with interact more freely with others than with them. "I think the idea of envy and jealousy becomes much magnified through this medium (Social Media)," says Brody.
There is no Substitute for an Engaged Parent
All of this perceived inadequacy on the part of teenagers and youngger children can best be addressed by caring and engaged parents, who closely monitor their children's use of social media and encourage them to balance their lives with other off-line interests and activities. One-dimensional living is not healthy for anyone and Social Media has made it far too easy to shun the real world to engage strictly in on-line socialization. We are social-bees and need to interact with others, in the flesh. There is no reasonable substitute for making eye-contact with our peers and changing the dynamic messages and signals that can only be expressed in body language. Social Media is lacking in full body human expression.
Normal children's development requires a well-rounded set of human experiences. Social Media is self-limiting in this regard. The child that plays sports, joins clubs, visits with friends and spends time with family is much less a -risk for depression and other troubling symptoms associated with the overuse of Social Media and "Facebook Depression." Facebook Depression is new and unfortunate clinical malady that no child should never have to be diagnosed with. Parents, teachers and clinicians should be on the lookout for early indicators of this disease and intervene, immediately.