effect of using social networks in children This is a very sensitive area of research as parents and political officials try to determine the results of a large experiment that is in full swing. Ongoing studies are adding pieces to the puzzle on the effects of a nearly constant flow of virtual interactions beginning in childhood.
A new study by neuroscientists at the University of North Carolina tries to innovate by continuously performing Brain scans for high school students between the ages of 12 and 15A period of particularly rapid brain development.
The researchers found that children who habitually checked social media around age 12 showed a typical trajectory. sensitivity to social rewards from peers which increased with time. Adolescents with low participation in social networks followed the opposite trajectory loss of interest in social rewards,
The study, published Tuesday in JAMA Pediatrics, is one of the first attempts to capture the changes in children brain function Related to the use of social networks over the years.
The authors acknowledge that the study has important limitations. Since adolescence is a period of expanding social ties, brain differences may reflect a natural turn toward peers, which may lead to greater use of social networks.
“We can’t say that social media is changing the brain,” said Eva H. Telzer said.
However, he added, “adolescents who habitually consult their social networks show drastic change The way your brain responds can have long-term consequences well into adulthood, leading to brain development over time.”
A team of researchers studied an ethnically diverse group of 169 sixth- and seventh-grade students at a middle school in rural North Carolina, dividing them into groups based on how often they checked Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.
around the age of 12, students already showed characteristic behavior patterns, Regular users reported checking the network 15 or more times per day; moderate users, between one and 14 times; and non-regular users, less than once a day.
Subjects underwent full brain scans three times, at intervals of about a year, while playing a computerized game that offered rewards and punishments in the form of pairs that smiled or raised eyebrows.
While tasked, frequent gamers showed increased activation of three areas of the brain: the reward processing circuit, which also reacts to experiences such as making money or behaving risky; Areas of the brain that determine salinity select what is most different in the environment; and the prefrontal cortex, which helps with regulation and control.
The results showed that “adolescents who grow up using social media are often becoming more sensitive to feedback from their peers,” Telzer said.
The results do not reflect the magnitude of brain changes, only their trajectory. And it’s not clear, according to the authors, whether the changes are beneficial or harmful. Social sensitivity may be adaptive and reflect how teens are learning to relate to others, or it may cause social anxiety and depression If social needs are not met.
Researchers in the field of social media caution against drawing general conclusions from the results.
“They show how their use at some point in life affects brain development, but we don’t know to what extent, or whether it’s good or bad,” said Jeff Hancock, founding director of the Stanford Social Media Lab. Do not participate in the study. He said many other variables could be contributing to those changes.
“What if these people joined a new hockey or volleyball team and started interacting socially a lot?” They thought. It may be, he said, that researchers are “capturing the development of extroversion, and extroverts are more likely to consult their social networks.”
He called the article “a very detailed piece of work”, contributing to recent research showing that sensitivity to social media varies from person to person.
“There are people who have a neurological condition that makes them more likely to be drawn to probe networks frequently,” he said. “We are not all the same and we should stop thinking that social media is the same for everyone.”
Over the past decade, social media has transformed the core experiences of adolescence, a period of rapid brain development.
According to the Pew Research Center, nearly half of all American teens engage in social media: 97% do it daily and 46% say they do it “almost constantly”, Research has shown that black and Latino teens spend more hours on social media than white teens.
Researchers have documented multiple effects on children’s mental health. Some studies link social media use to depression and anxiety, while others find little association. A 2018 study of lesbian, gay and bisexual teens found that social media provided them with validation and support, but also exposed them to hate speech.
Experts who reviewed the study said that because the researchers measured students’ social media use only once, at age 12, it was impossible to know how it changed over time or to rule out other factors that could affect students’ social media use. Brain development can also affect performance.
Not much is known about other aspects of life Among the students, “it is difficult to understand to what extent specific differences in brain development are related to social network use,” explained Adriana Galván, a UCLA expert in adolescent brain development who was not involved in the study.
Jennifer Pfeiffer, professor of psychology at the University of Oregon and co-director of the National Scientific Council on Adolescence, said: “All experiences are accumulated and reflected in the brain.”
“I think you have to put things in that respect‘Many other experiences of adolescents will also change the brain,’ he added. So going into a kind of moral panic because of the idea that social network use is “changing teen brains” is not a good idea.
Telzer, one of the study’s authors, said that increased sensitivity to social feedback is “neither good nor bad.”
“It’s helping them connect with others and be rewarded with things they have in common in their social world, engaging in social interactions online,” he said.
“This is the new norm,” he said. “It’s important to understand how it affects This new digital world in teenagers, It may be linked to changes in the brain, but it can be for better or for worse. We don’t know the long-term effects yet.”
Translation: Elisa Carnelli