Lost in a world of calculated dopamine releasing “likes” and grownups who tell you “Oh don’t take it too seriously”, it cannot be easy being a teenager.
We all remember our teenage years, but being a teenager today is filled with far more complex challenges than what it used to be. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and other social media platforms are constructed in a very clever way, which creates an addictive behaviour through a mental reward system for the user.
Harder for teenagers to handle
The effects of these reward systems can be particularly hard to handle for teenagers. Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, discusses in her TED talk how teenagers use a different mental approach to make social decisions.
The limbic system in the brain supports a variety of functions including emotion, behaviour, motivation, long-term memory, and the part which forms the sense of smell. This particular part of the brain is what gives you the rewarding feeling of doing fun things, or when you receive a “like” on your social profile. This area is hypersensitive in teenage brains. At the same time, the frontal cortex which stops a person taking excessive risk is not as developed in teenage brains.
Social media have consequences for the brain
“The environment can and does shape the adolescent brain” says Blakemore. Keep in mind that the environment of today’s teenagers is not purely physical, but also the online social environment of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and many more.
“Parents need to be role models for the kids and talk with them about the consequences of being too often online on social media”. said the principal of Blussuvoll School Lars Henrik Rygh to NRK. This might not be the full solution to reducing teenagers’ addictive behaviour of social media. As the teenagers’ brains make them have different behavioural patterns.
Just don’t be on social media – the solution?
Social media has transformed traditional methods of communication, and will most likely never go back to the way it was. People have gotten used to the instantaneous and interactive sharing of information. And for teenagers, social media is so ingrained in the way they socialise with each other. That if they were to suddenly not be a part of the social media community with their friends, they would by default be excluded from their social group.
Karl Marx said ”If a human being is a social creature, then he can develop only in the society” and for teenagers social media is their society.
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