Technology — 10 July 2012

A new study refutes earlier findings that linked the amount of time spent on Facebook and other social media sites to depression.

Researchers believe it may be unnecessarily alarming to advise patients and parents on the risk of “Facebook Depression” based solely on the amount of Internet use.

The results of the study by The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public researchers are published online in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

The new report counters last year’s American Academy of Pediatrics study that suggested exposure to Facebook could lead to depression.

In the current study, researchers led by Lauren Jelenchick and Dr. Megan Moreno surveyed 190 University of Wisconsin-Madison students between the ages of 18 and 23, using a real-time assessment of Internet activity and a validated, clinical screening method for depression.

The students were surveyed with 43 text-message questionnaires at random intervals over a seven-day period between February and December of 2011.

The students were asked if they were currently online, how many minutes they had been online and what they were doing on the Internet.

Researchers discovered survey participants were on Facebook for over half of the total time online.

Evaluation of the data, including the depression-screening results, discovered no significant associations between social-media use and the probability of depression.

“Our study is the first to present scientific evidence on the suggested link between social-media use and risk of depression,” said Jelenchick.

“The findings have important implications for clinicians who may prematurely alarm parents about social-media use and depression risks.”

Moreno, a pediatrician who has been widely published in the area of social-media use among children and adolescents, advises parents to look at their children’s social-media use in the context of their entire lives.

She says parents don’t have to be overly concerned if their child’s behavior and mood haven’t changed, they have friends and their school work is consistent.

“While the amount of time on Facebook is not associated with depression, we encourage parents to be active role models and teachers on safe and balanced media use for their children,” said Moreno.

Experts report that more than 70 percent of adolescents use social media sites, most commonly Facebook.

Source: University of Wisconsin

As first appeared in Psych Central, 10 July, 2012


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