"Facebook Depression" is now officially considered a potential risk for troubled teens who obsess over their online profile according to Boston pediatrician Dr. Gwenn O'Keeffe.
If this is true the Irish, 50 percent of whom use Facebook, are at a high risk.
Dr O'Keeffe said "Facebook is where all the teens are hanging out now. It's their corner store…A lot of what's happening is actually very healthy, but it can go too far."
Currently researchers disagree over whether "Facebook Depression" is simply an extension of depression of a distinct condition related to the social networking site.
Dr. O'Keeffe, the lead author of a new American Academy of Pediatrics social media guidelines says the unique aspects of Facebook make it a particularly tough area to navigate for kids and young adults with poor self esteem.
She says aspects such as how many friends you have, status updates and photos of happy looking friends can make some people feel even worse about themselves.
Speaking to Associated Press O'Keeffe explained that Facebook “can be the equivalent of sitting by themselves in a crowded school cafeteria for some kids. It provides a skewed view of reality for the kids as there's no way to see others facial expressions or body language. They feel like the odd one out. “
Sixteen-year-old Chicagoan Abby Abolt maintains she's never felt depressed although she frequently uses Facebook. However she does understand how it can make some teenagers feel this way.
She said "If you really didn't have that many friends and weren't really doing much with your life, and saw other peoples' status updates and pictures and what they were doing with friends, I could see how that would make them upset…It's like a big popularity contest — who can get the most friend requests or get the most pictures tagged."
Also as tragically documented in the Phoebe Prince case of bullying, which ended in the suicide of a 15-year-old County Clare student, Facebook can be used to post judgmental messages.
Gaby Navarro (18) form Grayslake, Illinois, said that this has happened to her friends and she understands how teenagers feel depressed. She said "Parents should definitely know…It's good to raise awareness about it."
Dr. Megan Moreno of the University of Wisconsin disagrees with O'Keeffe. She studied online social networking among college students. Her findings showed that Facebook can enhance feelings of social connectedness among well-adjusted kids and have the opposite effect on those prone to depression.
She said parents should not get the idea they using Facebook is going to infect their kids with depression.
Recent figures from Ireland show that 50 percent of the population over the age of 15 are on Facebook which 90 percent of those aged between 15 and 24 use the site.
Pediatricians urged parents to talk to their teenagers about online use and to be award of "Facebook Depression", cyberbullying, sexting and other risks.