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How social media is impacting brain development in teens

Teens-Back-To-School Shopping
Posted at 1:11 PM, Jan 18, 2023

The use of social media may have an impact on brain development in children.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill analyzed brain scans of children 12 to 15 years old.

They found those with a habit of checking social media about 15 times a day had a higher sensitivity to social rewards.

Those are positive reactions to things like praise from peers and upholding a good reputation.

In the past, this has been measured through reactions to facial expressions or being told things like “good job."

Social media changes those measurements with the number of likes and follows one receives.

"You can kind of put a number on how other people are responding to you, or at least how you how you're interpreting that. And I think that there are probably a lot of factors that go into how each individual person receives that information and interpret that information," said Kara Fox, a researcher at UNC at Chapel Hill.

Fox noted that this research doesn't know whether the reactions are good or bad.

Adolescence is a time when the brain goes through many changes on its own, but the research builds the foundation for future studies.

Scientists plan to examine whether increased interactions involving social rewards could create mental health challenges.

"This higher sensitivity could lead to it being harder for those needs to be met, which could then create some risk for anxiety or depression down the line. But that's just all stuff that we need to explore further."

Eventually, researchers hope to provide clear information about how social media can benefit kids and solutions for the ways it can harm them.