KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A pediatric neurologist at the University of Tennessee Medical Center weighed in on how social media impacts the brain functions and behaviors of young children and teens.
Doctor Denia Ramirez helped shed light on a recent study done by the University of North Carolina.
The study found social media may potentially be linked to changes in the brain, according to MRI brain scans. More specifically, the study identified a possible link between frequently checking social media and brain changes associated with having less control of impulsive behaviors. This study looked at nearly 200 children in the sixth and seventh grades who self-reported their usage of Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.
Dr. Ramirez shared just how addictive social media usage appeared to be in this particular set of results.
“Those who are high users, down the road, seem to have persistent activation of areas of the brain that are more associated with the reward system,” said Dr. Ramirez. “There may be a link between that high use to a decreased response with time to that reward, so that they need to use it more.”
This comes as youth social media usage continues to be a hot button issue across the country.
TikTok officials announced Wednesday that accounts with users under the age of 18 will have a 60-minute daily screen time limit within the next couple of weeks.
Meanwhile, lawmakers across the nation are also discussing restrictions and regulations that could potentially be imposed to help youth protect their mental health.
Dr. Ramirez said she felt it was important that families get help navigating this new digital world.
“I think there is a lot that can be done, and I do think that to a certain extent we need to help and we owe it to them,” said Ramirez. “How do we put regulations in place to allow you to get the benefits, but to protect you as well?”
Ramirez recommended parents follow the guidelines set by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
She said for children under the age of 18 months, no screen time is recommended. She said an exception could be made to video chat with family members who live far away. She then went on to say for 18-to-24-month-olds, it’s advised to try to stick to less than an hour a day of supervised screen time. For 2-to-5-year-olds, she said supervised hour of screen time is advised.
Ramirez explained it can get a bit trickier from the age of six and up, but overall she says it’s about quality supervised screen time when compared to mindless screen time.