The following is an excerpt from an online article published by HealthDay.
For unclear reasons, new research warns that an increase in social media use during the pandemic may have worsened tics in children.
Tics are sudden jerks, movements, or noises that people repeatedly make because they cannot control their bodies.
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In the study, 90% of 20 people with tics aged 11 to 21 said they had increased their use of social media during the pandemic. Although tic frequency did not appear to increase with social media use, researchers found that more time spent on social media was associated with the onset of more severe tic behaviors.
However, study author Dr. Jessica Frey said the findings are preliminary. A larger study involving more tic patients is already underway to better understand what exactly is going on.
"We don't yet know the 'why' for the association 'between social media and tic severity,'" said Frey, a movement disorder specialist in the University of Florida's Department of Neurology.
What is known, she said, is that “during the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a surge in social media consumption, particularly among the youth population. [And] along with the increased use of social media, there has also been an increase in the severity of tics and explosive tic disorder.
"Tics most often begin in childhood or adolescence and then improve or disappear completely in adulthood, although up to 20% may continue to have tics into adulthood," said explained Frey.
For the study, all young participants were asked how much time they spent on social media during the pandemic; how often they had tics; the severity of their tics and how they perceived their overall quality of life.
About two-thirds said they used social media between four and five times a day, for an average of 5.6 hours a day. More than 85% said their tic behavior had increased since the start of the pandemic, while half said they thought using social media worsened the nature of their tics.
While tic frequency was not associated with time spent on social media, tic severity was.
Frey presented the findings Monday at a meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Seattle. Such research is considered preliminary until it is published in a peer-reviewed journal.