Frequent Social Media Checks May Affect Adolescent’s Brains

By: | January 7th, 2023

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Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have discovered the relationship between early teen social media use and changes in their brains. 

Social media Apps such as Instagram or Snapchat could be making teenagers habitually refresh and check to know the reactions to their online posts. The research found that more frequent checking of social media may be associated with a greater sensitivity to social rewards.

“For youth who habitually check their social media, the brain is changing in a way that is becoming more and more sensitive to social feedback over time,” said lead study author Dr. Eva Telzer, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “And this is setting the stage for how the brain continues to develop into adulthood.”

For this research, scientists set out to specifically home in on the neurodevelopmental effects of social media use in teenagers. They recruited 169 school students (12 or 13 years old) in rural North Carolina and followed them for three years. For checking their neural responses, researchers used brain scans called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Over a three-year period, the students underwent annual fMRI imaging of their brains to see their neural responses. Researchers explained that the students who frequently check social media showed greater neural sensitivity in some parts of the brain. However, those who checked their social media less frequently saw less sensitivity in those areas on the fMRI.

The study was published in JAMA Pediatrics.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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