Social Media and Teen Brain

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Referring to a recent study published in the JAMA Pediatrics, the New York Times reporter Ellen Barry writes that “teens who grow up checking social media more often are becoming hypersensitive to feedback from their peers.” 

According to the article, researchers found that “children who habitually checked their social media feeds at around age 12 showed a distinct trajectory, with their sensitivity to social rewards from peers heightening over time. Teenagers with less engagement in social media followed the opposite path, with a declining interest in social rewards.”

One of the authors of the study Eva H. Telzer, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, quoted saying “We can’t make causal claims that social media is changing the brain. Teens who are habitually checking their social media are showing these pretty dramatic changes in the way their brains are responding, which could potentially have long-term consequences well into adulthood, sort of setting the stage for brain development over time.”

Telzer added “It’s helping them connect to others and obtain rewards from the things that are common in their social world, which is engaging in social interactions online.This is the new norm. Understanding how this new digital world is influencing teens is important. It may be associated with changes in the brain, but that may be for good or for bad. We don’t necessarily know the long-term implications yet.”

According to yet another study from King’s College London, Elli Hunt of The Guardian writes “Is the ping of a text stealing our focus or do we just lack willpower? And could mindless scrolling ever be good for our brains?”.

Ellie Hunt adds “More likely, however, your brain feels like a browser with too many tabs open. From the widespread reports of a post-pandemic “brain fog” and the books on “deep work” and “stolen focus” topping bestseller lists, to the soaring diagnoses of ADHD in adults and children, it seems we are increasingly concerned by our ability to pay attention.”