Is Facebook really like a drug for your kids?

Facebook is becoming ever smarter, our timelines now showing us things based on what we have Liked rather than the linear structure that we are used to. You find yourself scrolling and scrolling until an hour has disappeared from your life and you can never, ever get it back.

For those of us who have had such experiences, you might not be surprised to hear that Researchers from California State University-Fullerton say social media obsession may lead to something akin to classical addiction.

The study compared brains of subjects who experienced compulsive urges to check Facebook against gambler and drug addicts, finding similarities in the dopamine spikes released in the pleasure centre of the brain.

According to the study, Australians spend almost 2 hours per day on Facebook, checking their notifications and news feed at least 14 times a day. The dopamine centres for the subjects checking Facebook were most active when given temporary gratification receiving Likes, a phenomenon that is being dubbed “Digital Dopamine”. Experts say this comparison is concerning, opening up all kind of potential parallels between traditional destructive behaviours and their newer, digital equivalents.

Ofir Turel, a psychologist at California State University explains the similarities. “[Facebook has] the ability to control their behaviour, but they don’t have the motivation to control this behaviour because they don’t see the consequences to be that severe.” Sound familiar? Users get so used to their instant dopamine highs that when they dwindle it can risk depression.

So what do you do to remedy this? Try weaning your family off screens by setting boundaries like “no devices at the table” and “no screens until homework is done”, to detox them from the negative effects of too much Facebook. Remember to set the standard for your kids – you are never going to convince your kids that being off their phones is enjoyable if you can’t look away from yours.