I've conducted two reviews on how Internet use might impact adolescent development. The first discussed the possible effects of the Internet, as well as the behaviors and capabilities associated with its use, on the adolescent brain (Mills, 2014). While overall I found a lack of empirical studies on this topic, I outlined how the available evidence suggested that typical Internet activities do not impair social development during adolescence, and are unlikely to damage the adolescent brain. My second review on the topic discussed how online behaviors, and the structure of the online environment, might affect the cognitive development of adolescents (Mills, 2016). Again, there was a surprising lack of empirical evidence investigating how typical Internet use was related to cognitive abilities in adolescence. However, from the available evidence I concluded that cognitive changes are likely taking place, but that these changes are not necessarily impeding adolescents’ or emerging adults’ ability to successfully navigate their social environments.
Replication matters. This project is a multi-site collaboration between research institutions spanning four countries. Our project examines how the brain develops structurally using longitudinal structural MRI data. This project has now resulted in three publications (Mills et al., 2016; Tamnes et al., 2017; Herting et al., in press) and our analysis code is available for anyone to use, and we hope that other labs will attempt to replicate our findings.
social developmental cognitive neuroscience adolescence psychology mri brain structure longitudinal methods multi-level modeling