The impact of social media use on children is a fraught area of research, with parents and policymakers trying to ascertain the results of an already large-scale trial afoot. Studies in the future have added to the puzzle, demonstrating the implications of a constant stream of hypothetical interactions that start in childhood.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina have conducted a new study to examine the brains of middle school students aged between 12 and 15. This is a time of rapid brain development.
Researchers found that children who regularly checked their social networks at 12 years old showed a pattern. As they grew older, their sensitivity to social reward from peers increased. With less social media engagement, adolescents showed a reverse trend with less interest and more in social rewards.
studyingPublished Tuesday in JAMA Pediatrics. This is one of the first attempts at capturing brain function changes associated with social media over a long period of time.
The study has many limitations, according to the authors. Brain differences in adolescents can reflect a natural turn toward peers. This could lead to increased use of social media.
Telzer, assistant professor of neuropsychology and psychology at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and one of the study’s authors, said: “We cannot make causal claims that social networks change the brain.”
She added that “Teens who regularly check social media are showing dramatic changes in how their brains respond, which could have long-term consequences well into adulthood. It can set the stage for brain growth over time.”
A group of researchers examined 169 sixth- and seventh grade students from a rural North Carolina prep school. They then divided them into groups based on how often they reported checking their Snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook feeds.
At twelve years of age, students begin to exhibit distinct patterns in their behavior. Users who are regular users report checking their feeds between 15 and 14 times per week; Moderate users checked between 1 to 14 times; non-resident users checked less often than once per day.
Subjects were subject to whole brain scans at three-year intervals. They also played a computer game that offered both rewards and punishments in the form smiling or frowning peers.
The task was completed by repeat-checkers. They found that the brain activation was higher in three brain regions. These were reward processing circuits, which respond to experiences like money-making and risk-taking behavior, and areas of the brain that determine prominence and pick out what stands out from the environment.
Tilzer stated that the findings showed that teens who spend more time on social media become more sensitive to feedback from peers.
The brain changes are not explained by the results, but only their course. According to the authors, it is not clear whether these changes were beneficial or detrimental. Social sensitivity is adaptive. It helps adolescents to relate to others. If social needs are not met, it can lead to depression and social anxiety.
Social media researchers cautioned against drawing broad conclusions based upon their findings.
Jeff Hancock, the Stanford Social Media Lab’s founding director, said that he was not involved in the study. He suggested that many variables could have contributed to these changes.
“What if these people join a new team — a hockey team or a volleyball team — and start having more social interaction?” He said. He said that researchers are “following the development of extraversion” and extroverts are more inclined to check their social media.
He called the paper “a very complex piece” and said that it was part of recent research that shows that people’s sensitivity to social media differs.
He said, “There are people with neurological conditions that are more likely to be drawn for frequent screening.” “We are all different, and we should stop assuming that social media is the same for everyone.
Social media has changed the central experiences of adolescence over the past decade. This is a period of rapid brain growth.
Almost all American teensSocial media is a great way to engage with others. According to the Pew Research Centre, 97 percent of teens go online every day, while 46 percent say they are online “almost continuously.” Research shows that Latino and black teens spend more time on social networking sites than their white counterparts.
The researchers have documented set of influencesConcerning children’s mental health. Some studiesOthers found no association between anxiety and social media use, but some people linked it to depression. A Study 2018Many gay, lesbian, or bisexual teens found social media to be a source of validation and support. However, it also exposed them for hate speech.
Experts who reviewed the study stated that the researchers only measured students’ social media use once at the age of 12 and it was impossible to determine how it has changed over time or rule out other factors that could also affect brain development.
Adriana Galvan, a specialist on adolescent brain growth at the University of California Los Angeles, said that it was difficult to determine the specific differences in brain development when examining social media. She also said that she wasn’t involved in the study because she didn’t have more information about the lives of students.
Jennifer Pfeiffer (Professor of Psychology at the University of Oregon) and co-director of ‘The University of Oregon’. National Scientific Council on AdolescenceHe stated, “All experiences accumulate and reflect in the brain.”
“I think that you want to place it in that context,” she stated. “Many of the other experiences teens have will also change the brain. So we don’t want to get into a kind of moral panic about the idea that social media use changes teen brains.”
Dr. Telzer was one of the study’s co-authors and described the increased sensitivity for social feedback as “neither positive nor negative.”
She stated that it helps them connect with others and receive rewards from things that are similar in their social world, such as engaging in online social interaction.
She added, “This is now the norm.” “It’s important to understand how this new digital world affects teens. It could be due to brain changes, which could be good and bad. We don’t necessarily know the long-term effects yet.”
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