Social Media Has Been Shown to Impact the Adolescent Brain
The Adolescent Brain Is Changed by Social Media
In the last three decades, it’s become more common for every house to have a computer and most people to have smart devices. This has led to the explosion of social media into something that is truly ubiquitous. Every person you meet, every business you encounter, and every social activity you partake in seems to have some kind of account. You can follow your favorite coffee shop, friend your barista, and like an unlimited supply of cat photos.
Like everything, social media has good and bad sides. It in itself is not dangerous or evil, but the way we use social media can be. In particular, there are dangers for adolescents. In this article, we will take a look at how young brains are still developing and the dangers of social media, as well as how to use social media in ways that are more empowering.
When we talk aboutadolescents, we are referring to people between the ages of 10 years old to 19 years old. As you’ll have noticed, there’s quite a difference between the start and end point of that end range. You can’t really compare somebody who is 18 or 19 with someone who is only 10 or 11. This is because adolescence is a period of great change and growth in every conceivable way, from physical changes and emotional changes to gaining more independence and changes in socialization. This is really the time in a person’s life when they go from being a child to entering adulthood. And that is a very stressful part of life!
The adolescent yearsare full of challenges. There’s a lot of intellectual, philosophical, and emotional intelligence development around this time as the brain is still developing, which we will look at shortly. It’s a time when young people discover so much about themselves and develop as people while making mistakes and going through different phases.
And, of course, there’s the small matter of puberty. Bodily changes and rushes of hormones, growth spurts or not getting a growth spurt, voice breaks and inconsistent facial hair, and an awful lot of spots. It’s a time of feeling self-conscious about changes. It will happen early for some people, and for others, it will happen late. Regardless, puberty is a challenging time that affects your mental health.
Adolescent Brains Are Still Developing
Do you ever notice how teenagers are always rebelling against something and taking risks? This is because once a child enters adolescence, they begin to separate from parents and other authority figures and start to gain an independent identity. Teenagers will start to explore different behaviors and push boundaries.
When an individual reaches adolescence, they experience a growth in the number of neurons they have in their brain. Neurons are messenger cells that allow different parts of the brain to communicate with each other and send messages to other body parts. They do this by sending electrical signals and chemical signals. Adolescents will experience a great increase in the number of neurons. Neurons are created in the brain by a process calledneurogenesis. This process also happens when we are an embryo, and despite previous doubts, it actually continues into adulthood.
As adolescents begin to develop more messenger cells in their brains, the way they think starts to change. Suddenly, teenagers are able to think in abstract terms. As a child, an individual will tend to go along with what they are told is true and will have a more straightforward way of thinking. However, in adolescence, as there are a greater number of connections in the brain through an increased amount of neurons, suddenly, the person can thinkin more complicated ways. This can be a positive, as adolescents begin to learn how to use reason and become creative. They will be able to solve more complex problems and make more difficult decisions. However, because an adolescent likely does not have much life experience compared to an adult, they will not always know what is right or wrong and what the best course of action to take is.
The brain itself is still physically developing in adolescence. In fact,the frontal lobe does not fully develop until the mid-20s. The frontal lobe is the biggest of the four lobes in the brain, the others being the parietal lobe, the temporal lobe, and the occipital lobe (which is the smallest). The frontal lobe holds significance as it allows us to predict the consequences of our actions. The frontal lobe is also the part of the brain that tells us not to do socially unacceptable things.
As this part of the brain isn’t fully developed until later, adolescents can act on impulse and have poor judgment. They may not be able to see the danger of their behavior and can take unhealthy risks and lash out.
In the field of neuroscience, we have learned a lot about how the brain develops through childhood and adolescents and on into early adulthood. The brain does not finish developing until you reach your late 20s. Teenagers experience a great deal of changes in their brains and, therefore, can express a lot of different feelings and act irresponsibly. Part of being a teenager is testing boundaries and challenging things. As a parent to a teenager, it is important to show your child that you care and help promote positive behavior andgood thinking skills. It’s perfectly normal for teenagers to take healthy risks, even if they may lead to some minor mistakes. It can be beneficial to help your teenager find constructive and creative ways of expressing themselves. Most importantly, talk to your child and listen to them, help them develop.
Naturally, your child will want to socialize with others, which means they will probably want to use social media. It is important to be mindful of social media usage as there can be adverse effects on the adolescent brain.
How Social Media and Technology Impact Adolescents
Scientific research has shown that constantly checking social mediaimpacts the reward centers in the adolescent brain. We are all familiar with the dopamine hit of getting a like on our picture or someone agreeing with our post. Well, it turns out it is easy to become addicted to that dopamine hit, associal media addiction is very real.
A recent study has shown that adolescents who frequently check their social media accounts had changes in the parts of their brain that control rewards and punishments, compared to those who did not frequently check social media. This basically means adolescents more frequently interacting with social networking sites may becomemore sensitive to social cues.
It is difficult to say whether or not this is an entirely good or bad thing, and more studies are needed. However, changes in the brain are notable, and the nature of the changes could lead adolescents to seek out rewards more frequently or be more sensitive to feedback. It is clear that it is now a lot more commonfor children to use smart devices, and this is the first time we have seen a generation grow up with constant access to screens. Too much screen time can have a negative impact on how kids learn andshould be introduced gradually. It is not fully clear how social media usage will affect adolescents into adulthood; however, it is clear it is having an effect on their brain development.
Social media does havenegative aspects. Studies have provided evidence to suggest that social media usagecan be linked with anxiety. It is common for people who constantly use social media tofear they may miss out on something if they are not checking their accounts. As well as this, as social creatures, we need face-to-face interaction, and too much social media usage can lead to us losing important social skills.
As adolescent brains are still developing, it is important to be mindful of the way teenagers use social media.
Making Social Media Usage Empowering
Here are ten top ways you can use social media in an empowering way.
Be nice: Social networking accounts can bring out the worst in people, so remember you are talking to a real person on the other side of the screen and be respectful.
Learn: Social media allows us to access information of all kinds, so take advantage and learn from some really smart people.
Grow your network: Social networking allows you to make connections that can be valuable in the long run.
Take breaks: Remember to step away from the screen from time to time.
Get creative: Social media sites can allow you to express yourself artistically to like-minded people.
Talk about problems: A problem shared is a problem halved, so let people know if you are being bullied.
Don’t believe everything: Not everything you read online will be true. Always check where the information is coming from.
Ignore the trolls: If someone is just trying to cause trouble, you’re better off muting them and moving on.
Interact with different cultures: Social networking is a great way to get to know about the different ways people do things all around the world.
Don’t replace in-person meetings: Make sure you get out and see real people too, but remember, if you are meeting someone online, do so in a public place and tell someone you are meeting them. As well as this, it is a good idea to have a call with them to verify who they are before meeting.
Social media is a powerful tool that can be used for good and bad. It is important to be mindful of how adolescents use social media as we do not yet know how it will impact them in the long run.
About The Author
NeuroGym Team: NeuroGym’s Team of experts consists of neuroscientists, researchers, and staff who are enthusiasts in their fields. The team is committed to making a difference in the lives of others by sharing the latest scientific findings to help you change your life by understanding and using the mindset, skill set and action set to change your brain.
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