Excessive exposure to social media hampers brain development in teens

By Pallav Bhusal

Kathmandu, May 22:

Social media was made to connect people with each other and keep them updated about each other’s life. But experts say that teenagers are so attached to the social media that they believe everything they see in such platforms. Therefore, it is promoting anxiety and lowering their self-esteem, leading to an increase in depression, anxiety, poor body image and loneliness.

“Continuous exposure to social media hampers the brain development of teenagers. Teenagers who are addicted to the social media believe that whatever they see on that platform is true. They believe and develop a tendency to live in that virtual world,” says Karuna Kunwar Bista, a senior psychologist.

“As a result, they become emotionally detached and physically disconnected with the society and the real world. So, when the time comes to face the reality, teens face panic attacks, anxiety, and feel isolated and confused. They will not understand how to face real world situation, thus, show withdrawal symptoms, including violence," adds Bista. 

According to Bista, it is the responsibility of the parents and school teachers to groom children and aid in their brain development positively. They should involve children, or students, outside the internet and help them stay connected to the real world. They should also teach them to understand and face real life situations.

For that, she says, children should be exposed and connected with the outside world physically and emotionally. It can be done by involving them in outdoor extra-curricular activities, such as sports, arts, music, group activities and many others. Parents and teachers should also monitor the usage of the social media by children.

“We usually have parents, teachers meeting’s where we discuss about the progress of their children. Most complain that their children are always using the Internet, especially Facebook and Youtube, said Shreeram Belbase, Principal of Spring Valley Academy.

“Our teachers advise the parents to divide time for different activities to their children. For example, we tell them to let their children use the Internet for not more than two hours a day and the rest for other activities. Our school also involves children in extracurricular activities to keep them physically and mentally healthy. We also teach them about the pros and cons of the Internet and social media” he added. 

Spending a lot of time on the Internet, especially social media, leads to teens receiving insufficient sleep, this also results in increasing anxiety and irritability.

Researchers have found that excessive use of the social media can cause profound changes to the brain in similar ways that drug addiction can. A team of psychologists have found that receiving likes on the posts releases dopamine in the brain, which creates a sense of pleasure.

“My son is always browsing the Facebook and Youtube, which concerns me very much. No matter how much I scold him, he does not listen to me. For now, he has other interests, too. But I hope, as he grows he does not get deeply involved in gadgets such as mobiles and tablets, said Manakala Khanal, a mother.

Social media has many positive aspects if used properly. It can help find solutions to social problems online where there is no stigma attached. Gathering information is quickest by using the social media. It can be used for expanding business. Teens can use it to find topics of their interest and spend creative time on it.

According to Statcounter, till April 2018, a total of 65.73 per cent of the world population is on Facebook, 6.81 per cent on Twitter. Similarly, 87.73 per cent of Nepalis have a Facebook account.

Access to information and technologies is increasing daily. People can use the Internet on their mobile easily at any place, any time today. More than half the world is already connected to the social media platform. Therefore, teenagers should be guided in such a manner that social media do not take over their lives, says Bista.

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