The Winston Family Foundation gifted $10 million to a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) research center to study the long-term effects of technology and social media use on teenager social and emotional development. The Foundation has a lengthy history of researching addiction and the connection between increased device use and addiction.
Teenagers spend more than eight hours daily on cell phones, according to preliminary research. The research also shows that a significant amount of that time is spent on social media. Based on research by Statista, as of June 2020, 63 percent of parents in the US said that their teenagers spent more time using social media now than prior to the pandemic. The Winston Foundation said that they have discovered that “high levels of device use and social media consumption alters neurobiological development in ways that can be detrimental to well-being.”
UNC associate professor of psychology and neuroscience, Eva Telzer, said that there will be a focus on education, outreach, research, public health and adolescent involvement. Telzer added that “scientific research like this will hopefully create an impetus for more monitoring oversight and regulation of social media platforms.” The Foundation said that the spike in reports of mental health issues, shorter attention spans, lack of empathy and critical thinking, are key indicators that it is imperative to provide more information to parents, educators and caregivers so that they can know how to support children and teens as they engage with highly-stimulating devices and social platforms.