by Kristin Kuiper, LMSW, MSW
If you’re reading this, chances are pretty good that you were made aware of this blog via Facebook. It’s become standard language to most—“I saw that on Facebook.”, or “Her status said her surgery went well”, even “They had their baby--I saw the pictures on Facebook”.
I’ve worked with clients who’ve friend requested me (which I don’t accept, just because of the nature of my relationship with them), who have had affairs that began on Facebook, who have been bullied on Facebook, even those who have decided to deactivate their accounts because of problems they’ve encountered on Facebook. It’s really becoming quite a fascinating part of our culture today.
I came across an article lately that discusses the potential challenges that Facebook brings to teens who might already be struggling with self esteem and peer acceptance. The American Academy of Pediatrics has concluded that certain aspects of Facebook can make it difficult for teens who struggle with feeling like they don’t measure up to others. Teens may feel like they don’t have as many “friends” as other peers on the social networking site, or might obsessively check status updates of others who appear to be having more lively and engaging experiences than they are. These types of things can breed symptoms of depression for teens who already tend towards this disorder. As the article mentions, Facebook can feel like one big popularity contest.
So, for concerned parents out there who are wondering how to determine if this might be a concern for your teen, here are some recommendations:
- Recognize the positive functions and benefits to Facebook such as connecting with family and friends, sharing pictures and ideas, and fostering positive communication with others. Facebook is a teen’s social reality. Facebook is not bad in and of itself, but it’s usage can go too far.
- Talk with your teen about their use of Facebook and how they view the benefits and challenges of it. Opening the door to this kind of dialogue displays that you are not naïve in realizing the presence of online bullying, harassment, etc.
- Role model healthy behaviors regarding social networking. Adults are not immune to these struggles. Sharing some of your challenges or how you have decided to set particular limits can encourage your teen in the right direction.