In recent months, researchers and the media have suggested that our use of social media sites like Facebook may be leading increasing numbers of Americans (especially adolescents) to depression. Social networking is thought to magnify the isolation some children normally experience in school. But a study released Monday suggests that such fears about social media are premature, to say the least.
Researchers in the Journal of Adolescent Health surveyed 190 University of Wisconsin-Madison students (ages 19-23) about their internet usage and assessed their risk for depression. Between February and December 2011, the students were sent 43 text message questionnaires over a seven-day period. The surveys asked if the students were currently online, how many minutes they had been online, and what they were doing on the Internet.
The students then completed an online survey containing the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 depression screen (PHQ) to assess their risk for depression. Result: the study found no correlation between time spent on social media sites and risk for depression.
The message, say the study's authors, is that parents need not worry about their children's social media use if their behavior hasn't changed and they're forming normal relationships with friends. The researchers caution that more evidence is needed before asserting that Facebook depression poses a threat to children and adolescents.