Description: Have you heard that teenagers these days are effectively having their brains rewired by their massive use of digital technologies? I did not ask if you were aware of this as a truth but just whether you had heard it stated as if it were true. Such ideas, that up-coming generations are being sculpted by their experiences right down to the neuronal level, are not new but have become more frequent in recent years, especially in relation to digital technologies such as smart phones and video games. The author of the article linked below is a clinical psychiatrist and director of a psychopharmacology clinic and as such, one might see him to be perfectly situated to have the clinical experience and data necessary. Before you read the article reflect briefly on the following questions. Are smart phones and digital media changing the brains of teenagers? Are the rates of depression and anxiety disorders higher in the current generation of teenagers than in previous ones? Is it possible for teenagers to become addicted to video games? Are academic related anxiety and stress levels among senior high school and first year university students atypical when compared to previous generations? Once you have thought about these questions have a read through the article and see what the clinical (psychiatric) neurologist has to say.
Source: Teenagers Aren’t Losing Their Minds, Richard A. Friedman, the New York Times.
Date: September 9, 2018
Photo Credit: Erik Carter, The New York Times.
So, did you see how important it is that we be precise and clear in how we are defining our terms when we are discussing the current state of teenage minds “these days? First, we need to be clear about the difference between anxiety related to the presence of an anxiety disorder and anxiety related to life events, like the end of a relationship or the difficult economic environment one is contemplating having to soon enter. To be clear, it is not that these two examples of life events are not anxiety provoking, but, the author suggests, they do NOT appear to have led to generational increases in rates of anxiety disorders. What might be happened he suggests is that parents are not appropriately preparing their children for the fact that life involves some anxiety from time to time and that we will not and cannot live effectively in a constant state of high happiness. The good news is that while life is stressful and anxiety producing from time to time and something for a lot of the time this does not mean our brains are being re-wired in dysfunctional ways. I mean people like myself who grew up with television (a previous great evil) have done pretty well (at least I think so). From a developmental perspective it is worth noticing that, generation after generation many humans do pretty well regardless of what their parents think is going on for them.
Questions for Discussion:
- Are stress and anxiety levels amongst teenagers higher today than in previous generations?
- Even if the levels of stress and anxiety are higher does that mean there are more disorders in today’s teens than in previous generations?
- Who needs to talk to who about what to get this in certainty about teenagers’ brains sorted out, and what sort of research might help along the way?
References (Read Further):
Niemer, E. (2012). Teenagers and social media. Alive: Canada’s Natural Health & Wellness Magazine, 20-29. https://stillwaterschools.org/sites/default/files/public/downloads/news/social_media.pdf
O’Keeffe, G. S., & Clarke-Pearson, K. (2011). Clinical report—the impact of social media on children, adolescents, and families. Pediatrics, peds-2011. https://www.cooperativa.cl/noticias/site/artic/20110329/asocfile/20110329173752/reporte_facebook.PDF
Strasburger, V. C., Hogan, M. J., Mulligan, D. A., Ameenuddin, N., Christakis, D. A., Cross, C., … & Moreno, M. A. (2013). Children, adolescents, and the media. Pediatrics, 132(5), 958-961.
Bolton, R. N., Parasuraman, A., Hoefnagels, A., Migchels, N., Kabadayi, S., Gruber, T., … & Solnet, D. (2013). Understanding Generation Y and their use of social media: a review and research agenda. Journal of service management, 24(3), 245-267. https://dspace.lboro.ac.uk/dspace-jspui/bitstream/2134/13896/3/Understanding%20Generation%20Y%20and%20Their%20Use%20of%20Social%20Media_A%20Review%20and%20Research%20Agenda.pdf
Denizet-Lewis, B. E. N. O. I. T. (2017). Why are more American teenagers than ever suffering from severe anxiety. New York Times Magazine. https://www.jimgerhardlearning.com/uploads/2/6/4/7/26470971/why_are_moreamerican_teenagers_than_ever_suffering_from_anxiety_.pdf