Use of social media affects teenage brains, study shows

chameleonseye/Getty Images/iStockphoto The team of researchers studied and performed regular MRIs of the brains of 169 university students aged 12 to 15 years.

chameleonseye/Getty Images/iStockphoto

The team of researchers studied and performed regular MRIs of the brains of 169 university students aged 12 to 15 years.

BRAIN -” Teenagers who grow up using social media become most hypersensitive to feedback from their peers. » 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 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 university 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 other hand, young people who are least dependent on social networks will develop a decreasing interest in these ” social rewards means 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 number 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 consult them between one and fourteen times, and non-habitual users who go there. less than once a day.

On three occasions, one year apart, their brains were MRI’d while they played a video game that offered them rewards and punishments in the form of smiles or grimaces from their peers. Conclusions: Addicted 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 social media use, it may also reflect adaptive behaviors that will enable teens to navigate an increasingly digital world. “, nuanced Maria Maza, doctoral student in psychology and second author of the study.

We cannot causally say that social media changes the brain However, Eva Telzer declared. But she adds:Teens who are used to checking social media show some pretty dramatic changes in the way their brains respond, potentially having 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 hourly, and 35% of teenagers say they use at least one of the top five social networks almost constantly.

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