Is your child addicted to social media?
New research shows that social media could be reprogramming children’s brains—and psychologists warn parents that they need to pay closer attention.
“Once a habit like constantly checking social media is formed, it’s difficult for adolescents to self-regulate, so parents may need to step in,” said Dr. Michele Nealon, Psy.D., President of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.
The new research focuses on overuse of screen time by adolescents in a three-year neurological study by the University of North Carolina. Results published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association, show significant changes in the brains of 12 and 13-year-olds who reported habitually checking Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.
An earlier neurobiological study reported in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS One, showed another troubling effect: compulsive adolescent tweeters had widespread and significant decreases of functional connectivity in their brain’s cortico-striatal circuits.
According to these studies, social media may alter neurodevelopment, significantly changing the ways in which the adolescent brain responds to its environment.
Dr. Nealon said that since the brain undergoes significant structural and functional reorganization during adolescence, habitual checking of social media may further increase the already enhanced activity in the amygdala and insula, creating hyperactive neural responses to the anticipation of more “likes” and social media feedback.
“The result is an ever-increasing need for digital social rewards and a reduction of ability to resist urges to check for feedback on social media platforms,” she explained. “This never-ending loop could interfere with school, athletics, friendships and other real world social interactions that are important for normal psychosocial development.”
To counter addiction to digital media, Dr. Nealon has recommendations for parents:
Limit screen time to under three hours a day, depending on your child’s age and activity level.
Set parental controls on social media sites and monitor the content your child is viewing.
Facilitate play dates and extracurricular activities to help develop other social skills
About The Chicago School of Professional Psychology:
Integrating theory with hands-on experience, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology provides education rooted in a commitment to innovation, service, and community for thousands of diverse students across the United States and globally. Founded in 1979, the nonprofit, regionally accredited university now features campuses in iconic locations across the country (Chicago, Southern California, Washington, D.C., New Orleans, Dallas) and online. To spark positive change in the world where it matters most, The Chicago School has continued to expand its educational offerings beyond the field of psychology to offer more than 30 degrees and certificates in the professional fields of health services, education, counseling, business, and more. Through its engaged professional model of education, commitment to diversity and inclusion, and an extensive network of domestic and international professional partnerships, The Chicago School’s students receive real-world training opportunities that reflect their future careers. The Chicago School is proud to be a part of TCS Education System, a nonprofit, integrated system of colleges and universities that works collaboratively to advance student success and community impact. To learn more, visit www.thechicagoschool.edu.