Social media use impacts teen brains, study finds

Chameleon Eye/Getty Images/iStockphoto The research team examined and performed regular MRIs of the brains of 169 college students aged 12 to 15.

Chameleon Eye/Getty Images/iStockphoto

The research team examined and performed regular MRIs of the brains of 169 college students aged 12 to 15.

BRAIN – ” Teens who grow up using social media are most responsive to peer feedback. » This is one of the conclusions of the study conducted by neuroscientists at the University of Chapel Hill in North Carolina. His goal: to understand the influence of social networks on the development of their brains.

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

On the other hand, adolescents who are least addicted to social networks would develop a decreasing interest in them. social rewards means a sign of approval, love, or attention from others. The study published Tuesday, January 3 in the medical journal JAMA Pediatricsis considered one of the first attempts to capture changes in brain function that correlate with social media use over a period of years.

“Pretty dramatic changes”

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

On three occasions a year apart, their brains were MRI-enhanced while playing a video game, offering them rewards and punishments in the form of smiles or grimaces from their peers. Conclusions: Common users activated areas of their brains, indicating that they were more sensitive to others’ social responses.

While this heightened sensitivity to social feedback may fuel compulsive social media use, it may also reflect adaptive behaviors that allow teenagers to navigate an increasingly digital world. ‘ nuanced Maria Maza, a PhD student in psychology and another author of the study.

We cannot causally say that social media changes the brain “, however, explained Eva Telzer. But she adds:Adolescents who are used to checking social media are showing some pretty dramatic changes in the way their brain responds, which could potentially have long-term consequences well into adulthood. »

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

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