Genes may strongly influence how people use online media such as Facebook, chat rooms and online gaming, a new study said Monday.
The study, published in U.S. journal PLOS ONE, looked at online media use in more than 8,500 16-year-old twins.
By comparing identical twins, who share all of their genes, and non-identical twins who share half, the researchers were able to estimate the relative contribution of genes and environment on individual differences in engagement with online media.
The results showed genes can explain 37 percent of the differences between people in time spent for online entertainment, 34 percent for online educational media, 39 percent for online gaming and 24 percent for social networking.
Unique environmental factors, such as one sibling having a personal mobile phone and the other not, or parents monitoring use of social networks more heavily for one sibling compared to the other, accounted for nearly two-thirds of the differences.
Together, these findings challenged the belief that people are passively exposed to media.
"Our findings contradict popular media effects theories, which typically view the media as an external entity that has some effect -- either good or bad -- on 'helpless' consumers," first author Ziada Ayorech of Britain's King's College London, said in a statement.
"Finding that DNA differences substantially influence how individuals interact with the media puts the consumer in the driver's seat, selecting and modifying their media exposure according to their needs."