New Study Deepens Scientific Evidence of Social Media Addiction’s Impact on Teens

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The science keeps rolling in. More and more, it becomes impossible to ignore the negative impact that addictive social media platforms have on our youth.

Studies released in May and June of 2024 underscore the significant impact of internet and social media addiction on the mental health and cognitive development of adolescents, highlighting the necessity of proactive strategies to address this growing concern.

June 2024 Study Reveals Harm to Teens’ Brains

A study published on June 4, 2024, in the journal PLOS Mental Health highlights the detrimental effects of excessive social media use on teenagers, shedding light on how it hampers their ability to focus on essential tasks like homework and quality time with loved ones.

This investigation offers objective insights into these claims, revealing that teens diagnosed with internet addiction exhibit significant disruptions in brain signaling, particularly in regions crucial for controlling attention and working memory.

The study reviews neuroimaging data from 12 studies conducted between 2013 and 2022, involving a few hundred adolescents aged 10 to 19. “The behavioral addiction brought on by excessive internet use has become a rising source of concern since the last decade,” the authors note.

Trumps Relationships

The clinical diagnosis criteria for internet addiction in the study included persistent preoccupation with the internet, experiencing withdrawal symptoms when offline, and prioritizing internet use over relationships for at least 12 months. Max Chang, the study’s first author and outreach case manager at Peninsula Family Service in San Francisco, explained to CNN that this behavior pattern leads to significant impairment or distress in the individual’s life.

Disrupts Executive Function Network

Given the dynamic nature of adolescent brain development, the researchers emphasized the importance of understanding how internet addiction affects teenage brains. Their findings revealed that teens with internet addiction showed considerable disruptions in the brain’s executive function network, which governs attention, planning, decision-making, and impulse control.

These disruptions suggest that such behaviors become more challenging to perform, potentially impacting the teens’ development and overall well-being.

2023 Gallup Study Underscores Effects on Mental Health

Social media poses a particularly strong concern. A Gallup poll of 1,567 U.S. adolescents revealed some of the effects of social media on teens—as reported by teens and their parents.

social media addiction

May 2024 Study Reveals Anxiety From Smartphone/Social Media Use

In another related study, researchers Silja Kosola, Sara Mörö, and Elina Holopainen conducted a population-based study to explore the impact of smartphone and social media use on the well-being of adolescent girls. Published in May 2024 in Archives of Disease in Childhood, this study aimed to objectively measure smartphone and social media usage and evaluate its association with mental health and well-being indicators.

The cohort consisted of 1164 first-year female students from 21 socioeconomically diverse high schools, with an average age of 16.3 years. Participants completed an online survey using validated questionnaires based on the Bergen Social Media Addiction Scale (BSMAS), Generalised Anxiety Disorder-7, and Body Appreciation Scale 2. They also provided screenshots of their smartphone usage.

Addiction and Anxiety

The results revealed that 16% of the participants had possible social media addiction, while 37% exceeded the threshold for possible anxiety disorders. Higher BSMAS scores correlated with increased anxiety, poorer body image, lower overall health and mood, greater tiredness, and increased loneliness. Notably, participants who provided smartphone usage screenshots averaged 5.8 hours of daily smartphone use, with 3.9 hours dedicated to social media.

Need to Mitigate Adverse Outcomes

The findings of this study align with previous research, indicating that social media addiction is prevalent among adolescent girls and is associated with poorer mental health and well-being. These results underscore the necessity of implementing measures to mitigate the potential harmful effects of social media use on young people.

 Social Media Addiction Lawsuits

Amid growing concerns over the impact of social media on adolescents, social media addiction lawsuits have been initiated against major social media companies. The Multidistrict Litigation (MDL), In re: Social Media Adolescent Addiction/Personal Injury Products Liability Litigation (MDL No. 3047), involves defendants such as Meta Platforms, Inc., Instagram LLC, Snap, Inc., TikTok, Inc., ByteDance, Inc., YouTube LLC, Google LLC, and Alphabet Inc.

Social Media Companies Design to Addict

Plaintiffs in this MDL allege that the defendants’ social media platforms are designed to maximize screen time, encouraging addictive behavior in adolescents. They argue that these platforms are defective and their design leads to various emotional and physical harms, including severe cases that result in death.

A Call for Regulation, Safety Measures, and Accountability

This litigation highlights the potential accountability of social media companies in contributing to the addiction crisis among teens, emphasizing the urgent need for regulatory measures and safer platform designs to protect young users.

“As these and other studies show, social media companies have created a youth mental health crisis the effects of which will reverberate for throughout society,” said Emmie Paulos, an attorney with Levin Papantonio Rafferty. Paulos has been appointed as a member of the Plaintiffs Steering Committee for the Social Media Addiction MDL.

“Companies like Meta, Instagram, Snap, and TikTok create their products specifically to be addictive to children. These companies must pay for the damage they’ve done and continue doing, and they must stop targeting our youth in the name of profit,” Paulos added.