Tackling Crisis of Teens and Screens

Phone screen with social media apps“We knew that we had done something amazing scientifically.”

That’s what Eva Telzer, co-director of Carolina’s Winston National Center on Technology Use, Brain and Psychological Development, said about the moment in late 2022, when the center’s research team analyzed results from the first-ever study linking teens’ habitual checking of social media to changes in their brains’ development.

Doctoral students Kara Fox and Maria Maza, the study’s primary authors, are part of the center’s team that leads a fairly new research field — the role of technology and social media on adolescent brain development. They’re already helping people — parents and teens, especially — who are concerned about the effects of screen time.

The Journal of American Medical Association Pediatrics published the findings in January 2023. By then, a $10 million gift in March 2022 from the Winston Family Foundation had expanded the team’s work by creating the center.

The center is not only working on research studies. It is also training students for scientific careers and disseminating videos on how digital media can affect children and adolescents.

“We’re just getting started,” Telzer said. “We plan to do a lot more. We hope to expand our curriculum to younger ages and continue our dissemination, getting the science out there and helping people to understand why what we study is so important.”

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