Non-newsflash to parents of teenagers: Many of those teens (most? pretty much all?) are glued to their phones. Need proof? The average 13- to 18-year-old sends between 50-100 texts a day and 70% admit to hiding their online behavior from parents. Or how about this Pew Research finding? Eighty-four percent of teenagers sleep with, next to or on top of their cell phones.
Does the above constitute “addictive behavior”? It might. But why are teens so particularly susceptible to staying connected 24/7?
In a recent Fresh Air segment on teens and impulse control and addiction, Dr. Frances Jensen, author of The Teenage Brain, explores the science of how the brain grows and why teenagers can be impulsive, moody and not necessarily the best decision makers. The distilled answers: Brains don’t fully mature until people are in their 20s, and one of the last areas to mature is the prefrontal and frontal cortex — the place where insight, empathy and executive function reside. Neuroscientist Jensen says this leaves teens particularly vulnerable to addictions to alcohol, drugs, risky behavior, smoking and — you saw it coming — digital devices.
Online Behavior When the Brain Isn’t Completely Online
That developing frontal lobe means that teens may not know when to stop: Judgement hasn’t fully formed – hence the inability to know when to stop, to know when to say, “This is not a safe piece of information for me to look at. If I go and look at this atrocious violent video, it may stick with me for the rest of my life — this image — and this may not be a good thing to be carrying with me.” Ditto the never-ending allure of social media.
Late Night Cell Phone Usage
Jensen also goes on to explore how cell phone usage at night can disrupt sleep patterns, especially in adolescents, who need 9-10 hours a night — a standard only 20% of teens are meeting! Not only does artificial light affect the brain, but it also decreases those sleep-promoting chemicals, creating a double sleep-deprivation whammy.
Read the full article here.