The excessive usage of social media by teenagers has been linked by researchers to negative impacts on brain development.
A long-term consequence of the rising usage of social media may be adolescents’ increased sensitivity to the anticipation of social rewards and penalties. This is based on research that was released in JAMA Pediatrics on January 3rd.
Brain Development Experimentation
According to co-author Eva Telzer of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the findings show that children who check social media more frequently as they get older develop hypersensitivity to peer comments.
About 170 middle school students from rural North Carolina public schools were observed by researchers over the course of three years.
Researchers initially tallied how frequently people claimed to use Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat—three of the most well-known social media platforms. Less than once per day to more than 20 times per day are the responses.
In order to continue the study, participants underwent annual brain imaging scans after completing a social incentive delay task that measures brain activity while anticipating peer evaluation.
Although this increased sensitivity to social input may lead to excessive social media use in the future, co-author Maria Maza pointed out that it may also be an indication of a potential adaptive behavior that could help kids cope with an increasingly digital environment.
According to experts, social networking sites offer a constant and unpredictable stream of social connection in the form of likes, comments, alerts, and messages.
Teenagers’ Social Media Engagement
The frequent, unpredictable, and frequently rewarding nature of social media inputs may have conditioned users to frequently check their feeds. According to the study, habitual checkers have particular maturational changes in their brains.
These individuals showed specific changes in brain regions, such as motivational and cognitive control networks, as a result of anticipating social rewards and punishments. Comparatively speaking, this is to those who engaged in irregular checking activities.
According to previous surveys, 35% of 13 to 17-year-olds use one of the five most popular social networking sites nearly nonstop, and 80% of these youth check their phones at least once an hour.
Per recent research, 12 and 13-year-olds who frequently use these sites may have an effect on brain development that lasts for at least three years.
Teenagers who frequented their social media accounts—about 15 times each day—had a stronger awareness of other people’s perspectives, according to researchers.
According to American psychologist and research co-author Mitch Prinstein, most teens start using technology and social media during a critical period for brain development.
This study, according to Dr. Prinstein, “demonstrates that checking behaviors on social media may have long-lasting and significant effects on adolescents’ neural development, which is crucial for parents and policy-makers to consider when understanding the benefits and potential risks associated with teen technology use.”