Study: Social media and general tech engagement not found to “fry” teenagers’ brains

Lit­tle to no increase in asso­ci­a­tion between ado­les­cents’ men­tal health prob­lems and dig­i­tal tech (Sci­ence Daily):

With the explo­sion in dig­i­tal enter­tain­ment options over the past sev­er­al decades and the more recent restric­tions on out­door and in-per­son social activ­i­ties, par­ents may wor­ry that exces­sive engage­ment with dig­i­tal tech­nol­o­gy could have long-term effects on their chil­dren’s men­tal health.

A new study pub­lished in the jour­nal Clin­i­cal Psy­cho­log­i­cal Sci­ence, how­ev­er, found lit­tle evi­dence for an increased asso­ci­a­tion between ado­les­cents’ tech­nol­o­gy engage­ment and men­tal health prob­lems over the past 30 years. The data did not con­sis­tent­ly sup­port the sug­ges­tion that the tech­nolo­gies we wor­ry about most (e.g., smart­phones) are becom­ing more harmful…

If we want to under­stand the rela­tion­ship between tech and well-being today, we need to first go back and look at his­toric data — as far back as when par­ents were con­cerned too much TV would give their kids square eyes — in order to bring the con­tem­po­rary con­cerns we have about new­er tech­nolo­gies into focus,” said Mat­ti Vuorre, a post­doc­tor­al researcher at the Oxford Inter­net Insti­tute and lead author on the paper.

The Study:

There Is No Evi­dence That Asso­ci­a­tions Between Ado­les­cents’ Dig­i­tal Tech­nol­o­gy Engage­ment and Men­tal Health Prob­lems Have Increased (Clin­i­cal Psy­cho­log­i­cal Science)

  • Abstract: Dig­i­tal tech­nol­o­gy is ubiq­ui­tous in mod­ern ado­les­cence, and researchers are con­cerned that it has neg­a­tive impacts on men­tal health that, fur­ther­more, increase over time. To inves­ti­gate whether tech­nol­o­gy is becom­ing more harm­ful, we exam­ined changes in asso­ci­a­tions between tech­nol­o­gy engage­ment and men­tal health in three nation­al­ly rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ples. Results were mixed across types of tech­nol­o­gy and men­tal health out­comes: Tech­nol­o­gy engage­ment had become less strong­ly asso­ci­at­ed with depres­sion in the past decade, but social-media use had become more strong­ly asso­ci­at­ed with emo­tion­al prob­lems. We detect­ed no changes in five oth­er asso­ci­a­tions or dif­fer­en­tial asso­ci­a­tions by sex. There is there­fore lit­tle evi­dence for increas­es in the asso­ci­a­tions between ado­les­cents’ tech­nol­o­gy engage­ment and men­tal health. Infor­ma­tion about new dig­i­tal media has been col­lect­ed for a rel­a­tive­ly short time; draw­ing firm con­clu­sions about changes in their asso­ci­a­tions with men­tal health may be pre­ma­ture. We urge trans­par­ent and cred­i­ble col­lab­o­ra­tions between sci­en­tists and tech­nol­o­gy companies.

The Study in Context:

About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.
SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

Top Articles on Brain Health and Neuroplasticity

Top 10 Brain Teasers and Illusions


Subscribe to our e-newsletter

* indicates required

Got the book?