Children Who Frequently Check Social Media Face Significant Brain Changes

The following is excerpted from an online article posted by StudyFinds.

Here’s one more reason to limit your child’s time in front of a screen. Social media could be reprogramming children’s brains and making them hooked on “likes,” a new study from the University of North Carolina reveals.

Experts say that apps such as Instagram or Snapchat could be making teenagers check their phones almost constantly to see if they have positive or negative reactions to their online posts. Psychologists said that the more young people check social media, the more sensitive they become to “social feedback” in the form of likes and comments.

Social feedback includes social rewards and punishments such as thumbs up and down, tagging, reporting content, or star ratings. This increasing anticipation and sensitivity to receiving these kinds of responses make it hard for adolescents to fight the urge to check their accounts, according to researchers.

“Our findings suggest that checking behaviors on social media in early adolescence may tune the brain’s sensitivity to potential social rewards and punishments,” the paper, published in JAMA Pediatrics, explains. “Individuals with habitual checking behaviors showed initial hypoactivation but increasing sensitivity to potential social cues over time, those with non-habitual checking behaviors showed initial hyperactivation and decreasing sensitivity over time.”

The researchers studied 169 students from three public middle schools in North Carolina over three years. Each participant reported how often they checked the popular social media platforms Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram. Some admitted to doing so more than 20 times a day. In the study, the authors point out that students who look at social media at least 15 times daily were the most sensitive to social feedback.

Source: StudyFinds

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[reposted by] Jim Liebelt

Jim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for HomeWord. Jim has 40 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, having served over the years as a pastor, author, consultant, mentor, trainer, college instructor, and speaker. Jim’s HomeWord culture blog also appears on and Jim and his wife Jenny live in Quincy, MA.

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