Researchers study effects of social media on youth


Photo / Christian Quinones

Teenagers check their social media at least 100 times a day.

With new social media applications emerging every day, researchers delve into the positive and negative effects on users’ physical and mental health. A 64% increase of Americans who use social media on a recurrent basis was recorded in a recent Pew Research Center report from 2005 to 2018. 

Although this epidemic affects children and adults of all ages, researchers are focusing on the effects of this addiction on teenagers; considering teens are recorded as the most frequent users of social media. Teenagers reportedly check their social media more than 100 times a day. 

Aside from checking their social media, teens as well as other users are uploading a record breaking five million photos on Instagram and 500 million tweets on Twitter every single day. 

A study done by Adam Alter at New York University found that the same addictive traits of alcoholism and cigarette smoking are replicated, if not worse in social media addiction. Features such as “retweets” on Twitter and “likes” on multiple social media platforms produce the same chemical associated with pleasure named dopamine. 

Further exacerbating this addiction, a study done at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) brain mapping center concluded that specific regions of the adolescent brain are stimulated and “brighten” by “likes” when using various social media platforms; directly causing them to use social media more often.

Other research shows that teenagers, specifically those who grew up with social media, perceive social rejection similarly to face-to-face rejection and bullying. Adolescents experiencing this rejection begin to become antisocial and view risk behavior media content. 

Along with multiple mental health effects, physical health effects include carpal tunnel syndrome from typing too much as well as strain in finger tendons and eyestrain from staring at a screen for an extended period of time. 

Not only does this addiction have effects on an individual’s physical and mental health, but now this addiction is endangering the safety of others; specifically, out on the streets. Seven out of every 10 individuals use their smartphone while operating a motor vehicle, found in a recent survey done by AT&T. 

In Qatar, the use of mobile devices, specifically to check social media while driving, has caused 80% of major traffic accidents, confirmed by a senior traffic official. 

Amidst conflicting data, researchers continue to look into the effects of social media on the youth population.