06/10/2015 03:21 EDT | Updated 06/10/2016 05:59 EDT

B.C. student to research whether social media deletes teens' capacity to care

VICTORIA - A University of Victoria doctoral student is investigating how Twitter and Instagram are changing how much teenagers care.

Rebeccah Nelems has been awarded $180,000 to study empathy in Canadian youth as they use social media to connect not only with local friends, but peers around the world.

She says the possibility teens are becoming less empathetic makes it important to examine what problems are cropping up, as well as potential solutions.

Nelems will also look into how teens' changing levels of empathy affects their beliefs about being a responsible citizen and civic engagement.

She is one of 16 Canadians who won a scholarship from the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation to research topics in the social sciences and humanities.

Another student awarded the scholarship, Meaghan Thumath at the University of British Columbia, will study ways to improve access to primary health care for indigenous women.