Teens Who Are Addicted to TIKTOK Can Easily Forget, Depression and Anxiety

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Not Only Depression and Anxiety, Teens Who Are Addicted To TikTok Can Easily Forget

A study of teen TikTok users found that those who exhibited a tendency to become addicted to social media had a harder time remembering sequences of numbers.

The findings, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, further suggest that this erosion of working memory is partly due to an increase in depression and anxiety.

As smartphones and technology take over the world, psychology researchers have begun to discuss the mental health consequences of “addiction” to social media. Study authors, Peng Sha and Xiaoyu Dong, discuss the finding that excessive smartphone use can actually weaken working memory.

Peng Sha and Xiaoyu Dong wondered if this decline in working memory might have something to do with increased depression and anxiety among highly active social media users. In particular, a large number of studies have also linked depression and anxiety to affecting working memory capacity.

The researchers focused their study on the issue of using TikTok, the Chinese-owned social networking site that has more than 1.5 billion users worldwide. TikTok allows users to share and watch short videos on their smartphones, and the majority of its users are teenagers.

Questionnaires were distributed to 3,036 high school students in China who claimed they regularly use TikTok.

Students complete the Smartphone Addiction Scale, Short Version measurement that replaces the word “smartphone” with “TikTok.” It is used as a measure of TikTok use disorder (TTUD) and addresses factors such as interference with daily life. The students also completed measurements of depression, anxiety, and stress.

The students then completed a forward and backward digit range test to assess verbal working memory. This test assesses students' ability to remember a sequence of numbers presented to them on a screen and repeat it again in the same order or vice versa.

Across the sample, students who scored higher for the TTUD found it more difficult on the forward and backward digit range tests. This shows a decrease in working memory capacity among those who have a tendency to become addicted to TikTok. These students also had a higher tendency to depression, anxiety, and stress.

As the researchers hypothesized, depression, anxiety, and stress seem to explain little of why problematic TikTok use is linked to poorer working memory.

Depression and anxiety partly involve effects between TTUD and advanced digit span memory capacity. Depression, anxiety, and stress in part involve effects between TTUD and backward digit span memory capacity.

When the researchers analyzed the results separately for men and women, gender differences emerged. Among male students only, stress was not significantly associated with scores on the reverse digit range test.

Furthermore, although female students had higher TTUD scores, male students had higher scores on depression, anxiety, and stress as well as lower working memory capacity.

The study's authors said it was unclear whether the decline in memory capacity seen among male students was due to higher levels of mental distress.

They also noted that their study was not representative of all Chinese youth. So that future research is still needed to generalize the findings. Further research will elucidate the relationship between mental health, TTUD, and memory loss over time.

The study, “Adolescent Research on Indirect Effects of Depression, Anxiety, and Stress between TikTok Use Disorder and Memory Loss”, was written by Peng Sha and Xiaoyu Dong.(*)

Photo: Pixabay

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