Facebook, that social network that has the whole world in it, appears to have both positive and negative effects on teens. Recently, a study has found that aside from the positive effects garnered from receiving encouraging messages or likes from Facebook friends, having more than 300 Facebook friends in itself makes teens more likely to be stressed.
The study, published in Psychoneuroendocrinology, had 88 participants, all of them aged between 12 – 17. They were asked as to the frequency of their use of the social network; the number of their Facebook friends; their self-promoting behavior (i.e. posts); and lastly, their supportive behavior toward their friends (i.e. liking, giving encouragements).
Along with the four measures the researchers measured their levels of cortisol, via collecting samples four times a day for three days. Cortisol, according to AdrenalFatigue.org, is called the "stress hormone," influencing the body's response to stress. Higher levels mean more stress, and lower levels mean less stress.
The researchers noted that the cortisol-derived stress levels they measured are not entirely caused by Facebook. "While other important external factors are also responsible, we estimated that the isolated effect of Facebook on cortisol was around eight percent," study lead author professor Sonia Lupien said in a press release.
"We were able to show that beyond 300 Facebook friends, adolescents showed higher cortisol levels; we can therefore imagine that those who have 1,000 or 2,000 friends on Facebook may be subjected to even greater stress," Lupien added.
Although Lupien and her team found that the teens weren't depressed or suffering from it at the time of the study, they could not rule out the possibility of them having an increased risk of developing it.
"We did not observe depression in our participants. However, adolescents who present high stress hormone levels do not become depressed immediately; it can occur later on," Lupien said.
Parenting expert and family physician Dr. Deborah Gilboa told Yahoo Parenting that this study is not a reason for parents to rush closing their kids' Facebook accounts.
“It’s important to note that a higher number of connections on Facebook means that a teen is at risk for higher stress levels,” Dr. Gilboa said, “but that doesn’t mean you have to make a rule that your child can only have 299 friends.”
“Ask them if they have friends who seem stressed out by Facebook,” she suggested. “Maybe talk to them about what a friend purge would mean and think about doing one yourself with people you’re not close to.”
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