Shocking research: Internet addiction changes children’s brains, changes eating habits and affects sleep

In an era of digital connectivity, the allure of the Internet has captivated minds across the globe, but a recent study has revealed its worrying effects on our brains. In contrast to chronic eye strain or transient loss of focus, researchers now suggest that prolonged online engagement can cause profound changes in brain chemistry, leading to altered patterns eating and sleep cycles are disrupted.

Published in Mental Health PLOS and reported by The Guardian, research delves into the complex workings of Internet addiction, especially its impact on young minds. Compiling data from 12 studies conducted over a decade, researchers closely examined the neural dynamics of 237 adolescents, ages 10 to 19, diagnosed with Internet addiction.

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Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the study looked closely at how excessive Internet use impacts the brain’s circuitry. Surprisingly, these findings showed increased neural activity during rest in participants who stared at screens for long periods of time. In contrast, connectivity in the executive control network – crucial for decision-making and cognitive functions – showed a marked decline.

Vulnerability of the adolescent brain

Max Chang, lead author of the study from the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health (GOS ICH), highlights the vulnerability of the teenage brain to the siren call of internet addiction. “The adolescent brain, which undergoes significant biological and cognitive changes, is especially vulnerable,” Chang explains. He highlights the emergence of compulsive Internet use and food cravings as notable symptoms during this critical period of development.

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Parental vigilance and reasonable limits

Parental vigilance has emerged as an important preventative measure against internet addiction. Chang emphasized the importance of educating parents in managing screen time and limiting impulsive online behavior in children. Irene Lee, the study’s senior author, echoed this sentiment, urging young people to impose reasonable limits on Internet use to minimize the psychological and social consequences.

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While acknowledging the Internet’s countless benefits, Lee warns against its encroachment into everyday life, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a balanced relationship with digital technology. As screens become ubiquitous in modern life, understanding the profound impact of excessive online engagement is more important than ever.

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