Parents often struggle to navigate the muddy waters of teenage behavior management, especially when it comes to new technology like social media. Many parents realize that social media can be dangerous for teens, but one of its most serious risks goes mostly unnoticed.

Yes, social media opens teens up to cyberbullying, unsavory characters, and generally amplifies normal teenage risk taking. However, in some ways, social media acts on the brain in the same way that drugs do.

That doesn’t mean that smoking a joint and using Snapchat are the same thing, but social media apps can still affect the brain in surprising ways.

This Is Your Teen’s Brain on Drugs Instagram

In a recent study from the UCLA brain mapping center, researchers analyzed which parts of the brain were active while teens used social media. When teens saw that one of their posts received a lot of likes, the reward circuitry of their brain lit up like a Christmas tree. When teens feel popular and see their posts shared online, they get a little rush.

That can be a good thing! Human beings are social animals, and for better or worse, teens will grow up into a world where social media and technology skills are hugely important. However, the adolescent brain is still developing, and an unhealthy obsession with social media could set bad habits.

That’s why many parents choose to include social media or Internet time in teen behavior contracts. Teenage behavior management specialists often use contracts to help teens set healthy boundaries for themselves. And if a teenager is investing too much time and emotion into social media apps like Snapchat, then it may be time to set some limits — you’re the one paying for the data, after all!

Social Media Is Part of Normal Teenage Behavior, In Moderation!

Social media comes with many other risks as well. Already, teens are starting to ditch texting in favor of apps like Snapchat, precisely because of the social effect described above. Yet with their whole lives on display, teens can feel an intense pressure to show off or fit in with their peers.

That can worsen dangerous teenage behaviors and issues like eating disorders and bullying. Today, 58% of college aged-girls say they feel pressure to weigh a certain amount, and 95% of those struggling with eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25. On top of that, one in three students will experience bullying at some point.

For all these reasons, it’s important for parents raising teenagers to consider social media usage when dealing with teenage behavior management.