The following is excerpted from an online article posted by HealthDay.
For reasons that remain murky, new research warns that a spike in social media use during the pandemic might have worsened tic disorders in children.
Tics are sudden twitches, movements, or sounds that people do repeatedly because they can’t control their bodies.
In the study, 90% of 20 tic patients aged 11 to 21 said they increased their use of social media during the pandemic. While tic frequency did not appear to rise with social media use, the scientists found that more time spent on social media was associated with the onset of more severe tic behaviors.
Still, study author Dr. Jessica Frey stressed that the finding is preliminary. A larger study involving more tic patients is already in the works, to better understand exactly what is afoot.
“We don’t yet know the ‘why’ regarding the link” between social media and tic severity,” said Frey, a movement disorders fellow in the Department of Neurology at the University of Florida.
What is known, she said, is that “during the COVID-19 pandemic, social media consumption greatly increased, particularly in the adolescent population. [And] in parallel with increased social media consumption, there has also been an increase in tic severity and explosive tic disorders.”
“Tics most commonly begin in childhood or adolescence and then improve or resolve completely during adulthood, although up to 20% may continue to have tics during adulthood,” Frey explained.
For the study, all the participating adolescents were asked to report how much time they spent on social media during the pandemic; how often they had tics; the severity of their tics, and how they perceived their overall quality of life.
About two-thirds said they used social media between four and five times per day, at an average of 5.6 hours daily. Upwards of 85% said their tic behavior had increased since the start of the pandemic, while half said that they believed that using social media aggravated the nature of their tics.
While the frequency of tics was not linked to time spent on social media, tic severity was.
Frey presented the findings on Monday during a meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Seattle. Such research is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.