Washington: Here’s a caution word for the children obsessed with Internet and social networking sites! Such addiction may lead to "Facebook depression", scientists have warned.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAA), in a new report has said that a big chunk of children's social development now takes place in the online world, which also brings up a host of issues like cyber bullying, sexting and interactions with strangers.

Citing several studies, the report said that 70 per cent of teens and young adults in the US use social networking sites, and more than half of the teen use such sites more than once a day.

These issues are not new, but Internet adds a twist to them, said lead author Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe of the AAP's council on communications and media.

"We don't want to demonise the online world or say that social media is bad. What we would like is for people to slow down a bit and get to know what is happening in kids' lives,"
O'Keeffe was quoted as saying by a website.

The report also lists several benefits of social media, including a sense of community and communication among kids. Teens have easy access to reliable health information and
sexual education online. And social media often acts as a learning tool or a way to collaborate during school projects.

But navigating the online world has its share of pitfalls, O'Keeffe said. Kids and teens can inadvertently make embarrassing information or photos public -- bad news for future college or job applications.

"Sexts" can go viral. And cyber bullying can mean a kid never gets respite from the cruelty of peers, she said, adding that many online risks are an extension of the child's real world interactions.

Parents and pediatricians, she said, have begun to report "Facebook depression", in which a teen becomes anxious and moody after spending a lot of time on the popular social networking site.

These kids are usually those who have trouble with social interactions in general, O'Keeffe said.

When they find that people aren't responding to their posts or accepting their friend requests in the online world either, it can be very distressing.

"Kids can be insecure in general, so when you take a kid that is having trouble with peers and having trouble to begin with, Facebook can heighten those anxieties to a huge degree," O'Keeffe said.

The solution is not to ban cellphones and throw the computer out the window. Instead, parents and doctors need to think about the online world like they do the real world, and give kids instruction to navigate it successfully, O'Keeffe added.


(Agencies)