How social media usage impacts younger and older teens

Study finds girls negatively influenced starting at age 11, boys at age 14

SAN ANTONIO – For years now, we’ve heard the debates about social media and teens, from photo-sharing sites that helped kids feel connected during the pandemic to posts that made kids feel bullied or body shamed.

Now experts say the impact of social media may change throughout adolescence.

According to a survey from Common Sense Media, kids spend between five and seven hours a day swiping and posting, with many becoming addicted to it.

In fact, scientists have studied the brains of teenagers on social media and noted that the rewards center of the brain lights up.

“That brain region became more active when teens saw that other kids’ photos had a lot of likes and particularly when they saw that they got a lot of likes on their own photos,” said Lauren Sherman, a cognitive neuroscientist.

Researchers in the United Kingdom say a teen’s age and gender may also play a part.

In their study, girls were negatively influenced starting at age 11. For boys, the drawbacks began around age 14.

And the study showed that social media negatively affected both boys and girls by around the age of 19.

Developmental changes during puberty could influence how social media makes younger teens feel.

Older teens could be more affected by seeing their peers go through life changes online, like moving out of the house or starting new jobs.

While most experts say there’s more work to be done in understanding how the brain, biology and hormones affect the way teens interact online, they say it’s important to understand which teens have the highest risk of struggling mentally.

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