Teenagers point finger at Facebook

BULLYING on Facebook is increasingly becoming part of the mental health problem for Border youth.

Just 18 months ago, Facebook wasn’t on the radar of mental health professionals working with young people.

Now, the social networking site is being named a contributing factor to crisis situations.

“It’s gone from nothing to really being quite a significant issue,” North East Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) manager Lisa Gundish said.

“(Facebook) can certainly be part of someone’s presenting problem, something that tips them to a more critical or crisis situation ... They can certainly have suicidal thoughts, that’s not uncommon.”

But she said social networking wasn’t the whole problem.

“Nothing ever happens in isolation, it’s part of a contributing factor,” she said.

Ms Gundish said CAMHS found it was predominantly teenagers who named problems through Facebook.

But she said they were still safer on the site than those under 13, particularly from predators.

“By the nature of their age, children are going to be more vulnerable and less able to make critical decisions,” she said.

“Children don’t have the skills to be able to pick some of the subtleties of people’s behaviour.”

Ms Gundish said all people needed to be mindful of who they allow to become their Facebook “friend” but children were less likely to be aware of stranger danger.

“All kids need to put boundaries on who they let in to their lives and that skill develops over time,” she said.

“Older people fall in to that trap (of accepting Facebook “friends” they don’t know).”

Ms Gundish encouraged parents to become their child’s “friend” on Facebook, to limit their child’s time on Facebook and to set boundaries with the site.

“Parents need to take the time to check this sort of stuff,” she said.

But she also encouraged teenagers to keep on top of bullying, to call people to account, not get drawn in to bullying, and let others know when it’s happening.

“We have a shared responsibility with Facebook and everyone needs to take that responsibility,” she said.