CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- Researchers at the University of North Carolina released the results of one of the first ever long-term studies on child brain development and technology use.
The study specifically looked at middle school students in North Carolina and the impact social media had on their brain development.
Researchers said the evidence shows constant checking of a social media feed increased sensitivity to peer feedback. The 169 students underwent yearly brain imaging sessions over three years; that showed researchers that the children had become hypersensitive to feedback from their peers.
The researchers published their results in JAMA Pediatrics.
Ultimately, what this means for the future of social media and childhood development remains unclear. Even the authors of the study said the results are not necessarily good or bad.
"While this increased sensitivity to social feedback may promote future compulsive social media use, it could also reflect a possible adaptive behavior that will allow teens to navigate an increasingly digital world," one of the study's lead authors Maria Maza said.
Another researcher told ABC11 that she was not surprised by the results because the adolescent period is one of the most important and active times for brain development.
"What's unique about adolescents is their brain is in this state of flux," Eva Telzer said. "It's changing as a result of reorganization of different regions of the brain. So it's extra sensitive to the environment. And in this case, the environment is that social media exposure."
Parents are warned to not panic about this study as it does not mean all children will have social anxiety or social media addiction. In fact, it could show that children who use social media safely could develop more positive adaptive behavior that will allow them to better navigate an increasingly digital world.