so, kid, how many virtual friends do you have?

I’m a mother, so when I read recently that a new study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics discusses what researchers are calling “Facebook Depression” I wasn’t that surprised.And this comes on the tail of that story of sexting gone awry which has been all over the media (I mentioned it to the bunnies and they rolled their eyes, seems they know all about that).

Basically the study acknowledges that technology and social media are important aspects of a child’s social development, like it or not, and that the pediatrician who treats the “whole child” (my words here, not theirs) rather than limit their concern to pulse and growth charts, would be wise to be aware of what is out there and how if affects children (in a myriad of positive as well as negative ways) so that questions might be incorporated into an exam and signs of issues might be diagnosed. I like that. In many ways the pediatrician often has the role of an unbiased confidante, perfectly suited to see our children with clear eyes. The pediatrician, perhaps more than anyone else, solely has our child’s heath as a goal, and health, as we all know, encompasses many different aspects of our lives beyond the purely physical.

Pediatricians are in a unique position to educate families about both the complexities of the digital world and the challenging social and health issues that online youth experience by encouraging families to face the core issues of bullying, popularity and status, depression and social anxiety, risk-taking, and sexual development. Pediatricians can help parents understand that what is happening online is an extension of these underlying issues and that parents can be most helpful if they understand the core issues and have strategies for dealing with them whether they take place online, offline, or, increasingly, both.

The article is very comprehensive and points out the beneficial aspects of social media as well as the negatives and the risks. I would like to see a modified version of it offered as a takeaway to every parent (and starting young, just last night my kids were showing me a 3-yr. old who has dozens of youtube videos and is a viral sensation).

Oddly enough of my two facebook-aged bunnies one is into it (although in a healthy way, it seems, but then again he’s the one who blocked me, the horror of which I mentioned in an earlier post) and the other deleted her account awhile ago when she realized it was a huge timesuck and just not something that she enjoyed (I admire her greatly for that move, actually). Both seem to deal with facebook and other forms of technology in relatively healthy ways, and neither has displayed any of the negatives discussed. But the lesson of the article is that as parents we need to be aware of the power of the internet, the access it allows them to both good and bad. It seems only logical that the pediatrician, who follows our children from birth to adulthood, should be equally as aware and attuned to signs of distress.



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