Social Media Use While Watching TV Can Result in Memory Loss

second-screen viewing
(Image credit: Getty Images)

STANFORD, Calif.—A new study by Stanford University has found that watching TV while also scrolling social media can lead to memory loss.

The research, published in Nature, found that people who reported engaging in multiple forms of digital media at once, such as watching TV while texting and browsing social media, had a poorer memory than those who concentrated on just one.

The research team gave 80 adults aged 18 to 26 a memory task during which they recorded neural signals of attention lapsing, memory and pupil size.

Participants’ ability to sustain attention was measured by how well they were able to identify a gradual change in an image. They were briefly shown images of objects on a computer screen. After a 10-minute delay, they were shown more images and asked to identify if they were bigger or smaller, more pleasant or unpleasant, or if they had seen the image previously.

They also completed questionnaires to measure their level of media multitasking, impulsivity, everyday attention and mind wandering.

Results showed that attention lapses in the moment prior to remembering impacted on behavioral and neural memory signals and were associated with greater likelihood of forgetting.

“Limiting potential distractions can be useful in memory preparedness and reducing mind wandering or mind blanking,” said the report authors.

Time to put the phone down and concentrate on the TV.

Jenny Priestley

Jenny has worked in the media throughout her career, joining TVBEurope as editor in 2017. She has also been an entertainment reporter, interviewing everyone from Kylie Minogue to Tom Hanks; as well as spending a number of years working in radio. She continues to appear on radio every week and occasionally pops up on TV.