How “likes” affect kids’ brains

Tech Talk Tuesday #57: How do "likes" affect kids' brains?

This recent UCLA study about what happens in a teens’ brain when they get a “like” on their photo is very interesting. The researchers looked at brain scans of teenagers while they were looking at “neutral” photos, such as friends having innocent fun, and “risky” photos, that included photos of teens drinking alcohol and wearing sexy clothes.

When teens saw photos with more likes, they were significantly more inclined to like the photo, as well. Does this mean that are kids are spending less time in life trying to form their own opinions? Kids have always been impacted by their peers, but as Lauren Sherman, one of the researchers, noted:

“In the past, teens made their own judgments about how everyone around them was responding, When it comes to likes, there’s no ambiguity.”

In this same study they found that when teenagers looked at risky photos compared with neutral photos, they had less activity in areas associated with “cognitive control.” When the teenagers saw pictures that showed risky behavior, it decreased activity in the regions of their brain that are responsible for putting on the brakes. The real life implications of this have not been fleshed out in studies, but clearly it is important to discuss with our kids.

For Tech Talk Tuesday this week let’s talk about how "likes" (and peers in general) influence our opinions and behaviors:

  • When you see a photo with lots of likes, do you think you are more inclined to like it, too?
  • Are you ever the first person to like a photo? 
  • Have you ever not liked a photo that all your friends liked?