Excessive online time may change teen brain chemistry, new research finds

Teens and preteens who spend too much time online could change their brain chemistry, according to new research. The study, published in PLOS Mental Health, found that those changes could lead to more addictive behaviors, along with mental health, memory and coordination issues.

For the study, researchers analyzed a dozen previous studies involving 237 ten to 19 year olds with a formal diagnosis of internet addiction. 

“Adolescence is a crucial developmental stage during which people go through significant changes in their biology, cognition, and personalities,” researchers wrote. “Adolescents’ emotional-behavioral functioning is hyperactivated, which creates risk of psychopathological vulnerability.”

Most of the study participants were from Asia, and the research spanned from 2013 to 2023. The United States has not yet included internet addiction in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

“Given the influx of technology and media in the lives and education of children and adolescents, an increase in prevalence and focus on internet-related behavioral changes is imperative towards future children/adolescent mental health,” researchers wrote.