According to the latest research, the average teenage brain on social media is hooked for good. It shows unmistakable signs of addiction in its repertoire.
Social media is not just your harmless chat room or Facebook page. It not only changes the way teenagers interact with one another but transforms their very brain structures.
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When teens see a range of “likes” on their pics and get responses from their peer groups on the Internet, parts of their brains light up. These activities in cyberspace tend to activate the same regions in the brains of teens as are affected by chocolate consumption or winning the lottery.
This is a novel study that used brain scans of teenagers as its focal point. While they were utilizing social online media, various key areas of their brains lit up.
About 32 teenagers, aged between 13 and 18, got to view 148 pics on Instagram. From the photographs at least 40 showed the participants their own faces. The time span of the experiment was just 12 minutes of screen viewing. While the teens were online, their brain scans were taken via MRI.
The photos that got viewed also had many other teenagers giving their “likes” to them in a liberal manner. When the teens saw their own photos with a large number of “likes” certain regions of their brains showed increased activity.
A region known as the nucleus accumbens especially became primed for the pump. This area is responsible for the reward circuitry in the brain.
It is especially sensitive in teens who are undergoing so much hormonal turbulence in their formative years. Also the social centers as well as the visual modules in the brain got activated beyond the normal levels thanks to the effects of social media.
Two views of the brain-s nucleus accumbens. The brain’s reward circuits, highlighted in green, were more active when teenagers’s photos were liked by more peers. Credit: Lauren Sherman/UCLA
Whenever the teens clicked on a photo and found that they had gathered many “likes”, they became happy and the reward centers of their brains glowed with energy and excitement.
Half the teens were shown a lot of “likes” while the other half were shown less “likes”. The result was that those who got the most quantity of “likes” showed the biggest spike in brain neurotransmitters.
The greater the number of “likes”, the more the response even if the “likes” were from complete strangers. This process is magnified many times over in real life where teens are influenced by peer pressure and the media.
Parental concerns regarding the sort of online friends their teenage offspring are cultivating is legitimate and genuine in its scope. The Internet has both positive and negative aspects.
Dangers lie in the depths of cyberspace and teens ought to be wary of any foul individuals who could prey on their relatively juvenile innocent selves.
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The study is published today in the journal Psychological Science.