SALT LAKE CITY — Pediatricians are keeping a close eye on the possible emotional effects social media can have on teens.
There's a debate on whether a thing known as "Facebook depression" is real. In 2011, doctors with the American Academy of Pediatrics warned people that kids with low self-esteem can feel sad if they compare their lives to what they see on other social media profiles. But, researchers in Wisconsin say there is no link between Facebook and depression among college students ages 18-23.
Still, CNN reports that the AAP wants to keep an eye on how social media affects kids between 8 and 18.
Family Counseling Center Executive Director Kate Della-Piana said, "For a lot of people who are depressed, there's a physiological reason why they wake up in the morning and they just don't have that sense of well-being."
"The communication tends to be very surface, very rapid."
What counselors do know is that teens can become depressed through events that happen on sites like Facebook. Della-Piana says she has treated teens in Utah who entertained thoughts of suicide because someone humiliated them online. Apart from that, she feels the communication between friends online is not as emotionally fulfilling as a face-to-face conversation.
"The communication tends to be very surface, very rapid and it doesn't require the same kinds of skills [as face to face interaction] and doesn't result in, generally speaking, the same kinds of deep, meaningful relationships," Della-Piana said.
Plus, she wonders if shallow communication may be affecting kids on a hormonal level.
"The hormone that's released is oxytocin. That really is [associated with] that more steady, solid sense of well-being. It's not that rush we all feel when we're first in a relationship," she said.
Tests that prove if the lack of deep, emotional communication affect levels of oxytocin within kids have not been done. But, Della-Piana says a connection seems plausible.
"We do know that the levels of oxytocin are increased in a committed, longer-term relationship," she said.
Della-Piana says teens need face-to-face communication and conflict resolution in their lives to help them learn to adapt to social changes. Sadly, she says they're not getting those things strictly through communicating with their friends online.