According to experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the act of being shunned and ignored on a social networking site can be more detrimental to a child than if they experienced this treatment from their friends in real life.
The researchers who conducted the study have previously released a set of social media guidelines, explaining that acts such as ‘online harassment’ can have profound psycho-social effects on certain children, with many feeling as though they are involved in a popularity contest to have more ‘friends’ than their peers.
Dr Gwenn O’Keefe is a lead researcher and paediatrician at the American Academy of Pediatrics and has said that social media now interferes with sleep, homework and physical activity among young people today.
‘Parents need to understand these technologies so they can relate to their children’s online world – and comfortably parent in that world,’ she said.
Dr O’Keefe also said that it is difficult to accurately gauge how a child is really feeling through their social networking accounts because users are unable to see their expression and body language which usually provide extra context.
Though social networking sites do of course have their benefits, the guidelines from the American Academy of Paediatrics recommend that teenagers be monitored when frequently using sites such as Facebook and Myspace.
Adolescent medicine specialist Dr Megan Moreno from the University of Wisconsin has spent much time studying online behaviour among college students. She commented that whilst using Facebook can enhance social connections for some young people, it has the opposite effect on those who are prone to depression.
However, despite this she urges parents not to instantly assume that social networking is going to result in depression among their children. Instead she recommends that parents monitor their children’s usage of the internet and keep a close eye on their behaviour and moods.