Eva Telzer, PhD (Co-Director, Winston National Center on Technology Use, Brain, and Psychological Development, Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, UNC Chapel Hill), discusses research into the associations between social media use and adolescent brain changes at the #AskTheExperts webinar “The Social Brain on Screens” on April 11, 2023.

[Dr. Eva Telzer] Now, finally, social media use is not only kind of tuning how we process information online, particularly in adolescence, but social media use itself might be associated with how the brain is changing developmentally across adolescence. We know that social media platforms are delivering constant and unpredictable forms of social feedback in the forms of likes and comments and notifications and messages. And this type of social feedback may tune the way that adolescents respond to social information across this developmental period. In a recent study, my graduate students, Maria Maza and Kara Fox, found that adolescents around the age of 12 years old who were habitually checking their social media accounts showed differences in how their brains are developing over the next three years. So for youth who – who are habitually checking their social media, the brain is changing in a way that is becoming more and more and more sensitive to social feedback over time. So the social brain in adolescents is really wired to seek social acceptance, crave social rewards such as likes, and avoid social punishments, such as peer rejection. And so these social media experiences may have the potential to be exacerbating or enhancing an already sensitive brain, further tuning adolescents to seek out more social rewards online.

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Ask the Experts—Webinar

The Social Brain on Screens

What are the functions of the social brain in childhood and what strategies can encourage healthy social development in youth?

Media Literacy
Social Media
Social Relationships