Social media use impacts teen brains, study finds

This study is one of the first to investigate changes in brain function correlated with social media use in young adolescents, over a period of years.

BRAIN – ” The teenagers who grow up consulting the most social networks become hypersensitive to feedback from their peers. » This is one of the conclusions of the study conducted by neuroscientists from Chapel Hill University in North Carolina. His goal: to understand the impact of social networks on the development of their brain.

To do this, Eva Telzer, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience, and her team studied the brains of 169 college students for three years, between the ages of 12 and 15. First conclusion: those who consult their social networks very frequently around the age of 12 show an increased sensitivity to ” social rewards of their peers, which would increase over time.

On the contrary, the least addicted to social networks would develop a diminishing interest in these ” social rewards meaning signs of approval, love or attention from others. The study, published Tuesday, January 3 in the medical journal JAMA Pediatricsis believed to be one of the first attempts to capture changes in brain function correlated with social media use over a period of years.

“Pretty dramatic changes”

During the experiment, the teenagers were divided into three categories: regular users, who check Facebook, instagram and Snapchat fifteen or more times a day, moderate users, who check between one and fourteen times, and non-regular users, who visit less than once a day.

On three occasions, a year apart, their brains were MRIed while playing a video game, which offered them rewards and punishments in the form of smiles or grimaces from their peers. Conclusions: Habitual users activated areas of their brain indicating that they were more sensitive to the social reactions of others.

While this heightened sensitivity to social feedback may promote compulsive use of social networks, it may also reflect adaptive behavior that will allow to teenagers to navigate in an increasingly digital world “, nuanced Maria Maza, doctoral student in psychology and other author of the study.

We Can’t Causally Say That Social Media Changes the Brain “, however, declared Eva Telzer. But she adds:Adolescents who are used to checking social media show some pretty dramatic changes in the way their brain reacts, which could potentially have long-term consequences well into adulthood. »

Other studies have shown that 78% of 13-17 year olds report checking their mobile devices at least every hour and that 35% of teens say they use at least one of the top five social networks almost constantly.

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Social media use impacts teen brains, study finds


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