Digital Parenting: Does Facebook Make Your Child Sad?

Teens on Facebook

How Teens Compare Themselves to Others on Facebook

Most teens spend a lot of time glued to their computers and cell phones.  Rather than interacting with people directly, they tend to do it through the medium of Facebook.  Sure, Facebook can help you keep in touch with people you might not ordinarily meet all the time e.g., people who moved away from the neighborhood or went away to college.  It’s nice to be able to know what these people are doing and to keep in touch in some way or the other.

However, teens also tend to use Facebook just to communicate with school friends and see what other people are doing.  Many of them read glowing depictions of the lives of their fellow classmates—how much fun they had at a certain party or what a great shopping haul someone brought home.  And this makes them feel worse about themselves.

Studies That Show How Facebook Gets You Down

In a study done at the University of Michigan, researchers interviewed 82 young adults by sending them texts five times a day and getting their feedback about their feelings, Facebook interactions and real-life interactions.  They found much higher levels of bad feeling among those who used Facebook more often.  These negative feelings applied to how the subjects felt in the moment as well as how they felt about their lives overall.

Similar findings have been reported in the past by studies at Utah Valley University, Western Illinois University etc.  When other people put up their photos online or write comments, they try to depict themselves in as positive a light as possible.  And when your teen looks at these perfect-seeming lives, s/he tends to feel inferior in comparison.

On the other hand, studies also show that if you only look at your own Facebook page, you tend to start feeling better about yourself because you’re seeing what you want to show the world—all the best parts of your life.

How to Teach Your Teen To Take Facebook with a Grain of Salt!

Of course, it’s not possible to tell your teen to only look at his/her Facebook profile and ignore everyone else’s.  Given the popularity of Facebook, most parents have to accept it as part of their teen’s life but just train their kids to take what they read on Facebook with a grain of salt.  Just because someone portrays himself/herself as being very happy and successful doesn’t mean that they are.  It’s easy to edit your life before putting it online, and you should make sure your teen knows this.

Contact us for more information on digital parenting and Facebook training wheels for your teen with regard to this and other issues.

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