A newly released study suggests that the more a teenager interacts on social media, the more likely it is that they will become “hypersensitive to feedback from their peers.”

Researchers from the University of North Carolina noted that in adolescence, the brain sees “structural and functional reorganization changes” that are important in its development. 

The study was published in JAMA Pediatrics and looked to investigate the impact that constantly checking Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter could have on the younger generation. The researchers studied 12 to 13-year-olds, who self-monitored and eventually took an MRI scan to see their brain development. 

Those who admitted to opening social media accounts at least 15 times each day showed changes in their brain development over the course of the three-year study that included 169 participants.

“These teens might become more attuned to social rewards or punishments, including those in digital forms such as ‘likes,’ notifications, or comments,” Eva H. Telzer, PhD, the study’s lead author, told MedPage Today. “Meanwhile, teens who do not check social media often become less sensitive or attuned to social feedback over time.”

Students who rarely used social media reacted less strongly to social cues over the course of the study.

Other studies have shown that 78 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds report checking their mobile devices at least hourly; 35 percent of teens report using at least one of the top five social media platforms almost constantly, the school said.

Mitch Prinstein, who also serves as the chief science officer for the American Psychological Association, told the school that most adolescents begin using technology and social media at one of the most important periods for brain development during our lifetime.

“Our research demonstrates that checking behaviors on social media could have long-standing and important consequences for adolescents’ neural development, which is critical for parents and policy-makers to consider when understanding the benefits and potential harms associated with teen technology use,” he said.

TRENDPOST: The Trends Journal has reported extensively on how the world is entering uncharted territory with the growth of social media and the widespread use among young people.

We reported in August that a Pew Research poll found about 50 percent of teenagers surveyed in the U.S. said they are almost constantly online. The number has more than doubled since 2015.

Reports emerged last year that showed Facebook conducted studies into its Instagram app to see how posts could affect young users. The Wall Street Journal reported that these researchers “repeatedly” found that Instagram is harmful to a sizable percentage of teen girls.

“We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls,” the research found, according to the paper. “Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression. This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.”

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