Facebook is ‘corner shop’ where modern teenagers now hang out, say experts.
Troubled teenagers should not log on to social networking sites as they are in danger of developing 'Facebook depression,' leading doctors warn.
Researchers are not certain whether this is an extension of low mood that vulnerable children feel anyway, or a distinct condition linked with using online networks.
However, Facebook is a tough environment for youngsters to navigate if they have poor self-esteem, said Dr Gwenn O'Keeffe, lead author of new American Academy of Pediatrics social media guidelines.
She said that prominent friend tallies, status updates and photos of peers looking happy and popular, Facebook pages can make some feel even worse if they think they don't measure up.
It can be more painful than sitting alone in a crowded school cafeteria or other real-life encounters that can make children feel down, O'Keeffe said, because Facebook provides a skewed view of life.
Social media guidelines published today, urge doctors to encourage parents to talk with their children about online use and to be aware of Facebook depression, cyberbullying, and other online risks.
Abby Abolt, 16, a high school student from Chicago and frequent Facebook user, says the site has never made her feel depressed, but that she can understand how it might affect others.
'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,' she said.
'It's like a big popularity contest - who can get the most friend requests or get the most pictures tagged,' she said.
Student Gaby Navarro, 18, from Illinois said it's common among some teens to post snotty or judgmental messages on the Facebook walls of people they don't like.
'Parents should definitely know about these practices,' Miss Navarro said.
'It's good to raise awareness about it.'
The academy guidelines note that online harassment 'can cause profound psychosocial outcomes,' including suicide.
The widely publicised suicide of a 15-year-old girl from Massachusetts last year happened after she'd been bullied and harassed, in person and on Facebook.
'Facebook is where all the teens are hanging out now. It's their corner store,' Dr O'Keeffe said.
However, she said there were some benefits to online social networks such as connecting with friends and family, sharing pictures and exchanging ideas.
'A lot of what's happening is actually very healthy, but it can go too far,' she said.
Dr Megan Moreno, a University of Wisconsin adolescent medicine specialist who has studied online social networking among college students, said using Facebook can enhance feelings of social connectedness among well-adjusted children.
Parents shouldn't get the idea that using Facebook 'is going to somehow infect their kids with depression,' she said.