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Is Online Media Use Influenced By Genetics?

Update Date: Jan 27, 2017 07:28 PM EST

According to the National Statistics, almost 90 percent of the households in the UK have access to the internet, and thus there has been a boom in online media use especially with the younger population between the ages of 16 and 24. With this development regarding online media use, researchers are curious if whether online media use is influenced by genetics.

Previous studies focused on the influence of genetics regarding online media use and only took into account the problematic or pathological use of the internet, and were limited to small sample sizes. The researchers from King's College London wanted to know what the individual differences are when it comes to online media use.

The study based their objective on the results of previous genetic mediation research suggesting that between media use and behavioral outcomes, there are unmeasured genetic factors that influenced the findings. Therefore, the study, published in PLOS ONE, was expected to find a substantial genetic influence on online media use in individuals.

The team of researchers used a representative sample of 16-year-old twins drawn from the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS) in the UK. The participants were assessed on how much time they spend on educational websites, entertainment websites, online games, and Facebook. Online questionnaires were used to collect data regarding online media use.

The twin design of the study compared the siblings of known relatedness to estimate the influence of genes and the environment in regards to online media use. Identical twins share 100 percent of their genes while fraternal twins share 50 percent.

The researchers found roughly one-third of the variance in online media use can be attributed to genetic influences. Heritability was found to be substantial on all media use. With 34 percent of educational sites, 37 percent for entertainment sites, 39 percent for online gaming, and 24 percent for Facebook use.

The results of the study follow the concept of the gene-environment correlation, wherein people choose what they do online based on their genetic propensities. In addition, nearly two-thirds of the accounted differences on online media use is due to environmental factors.

The study calls for the new approaches to understanding media effects as it can be clearly seen based on the results that individuals play an active and dynamic role when it comes to choosing what media they used online. Furthermore, the study also notes the integral of genetics and the environment when it comes to individual differences.

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