NEWS25 January 2017

Genes affect online engagement

Media News Trends UK

UK — A study of online media use in teenage twins has revealed that genetic factors have a substantial effect on people’s online behaviour. 

Twins online crop

The study of 8,500 16-year-old twins compared identical twins (who share 100% of their genes) and non-identical twins (who share 50%) in order to gauge the relative contribution of genetic factors and the environment to how engagement with online media differs from person to person. 

The effect of heritability, which is the degree to which differences between people can be attributed to inherited genetic factors, was found to be substantial for time spent on all types of media. The effect ranged from 34% for educational sites, 37% for entertainment sites and 39% for gaming. Genetics accounted for 24% of the variance in Facebook use. 

"Our current study, which is one of the first investigations in this area, suggests that roughly one third of the variance in online media use can be attributed to genetic influences," the report says.

"We predict that future studies will find even greater heritability estimates, as online media continue to permeate our environment and as media use is tailored even more to our personal needs and interests.

"As environmental differences in access and availability diminish, our data suggests that differences in online media use would increasingly reflect differences in genetic propensities as individuals choose to use online media in line with their genetic propensities."

The full report can be accessed here