Technology and the Teenage Brain
In this modern-day age, technology is all around us and affects us in different ways. For teenagers, social media, text messaging, and more are a part of their everyday lives and it’s nearly impossible to avoid it. Teens are particularly susceptible to outside forces found in the environments of school, home, and recreation. These young minds are constantly changing and absorbing new information, social cues, communication skills, and more.
Impact on Teenagers
In teenagers, their abstract thought process that is associated with the frontal lobes only begins to develop during their early adolescence. This means that they can be easily influenced by things online and the part of the brain that regulates emotions (the amygdala) is underdeveloped. Without any structure or safety parameters surrounding technology use, it can be detrimental to their mental health and overall wellbeing.
With social media rising in popularity amongst teenagers and young adults, it’s important to address these issues head-on. Although in some cases it can provide meaningful connections, using social media every day to talk to friends, acquaintances, and strangers does not provide the necessary structure and social feedback. In person, conversations are far more beneficial to the developing mind than talking to someone through a screen and play an important role in developing healthy interpersonal communication skills.
“When teens are not taught appropriate use or have regular conversations with trusted adults about what happens on the internet, it can become a place for cyberbullying, excessive use, unsafe sexual content, and loss of privacy… It is imperative that adolescents learn safe and appropriate ways of engaging online…” – Jenny Panahinia, Eva Carlston Therapist
Using technology as a teenager’s main form of communication can be troublesome in another area. Mirror neurons that are developing in their brains mimic positive and negative interactions. Meaning, the reproduction of imagery, social interaction, and general information from technology does not provide the full picture to the teen, thereby skewing their process.
Although technology can be used for good, especially in the classroom, learning from technology does not transfer to real-life without subsequent support and application. There is a bigger picture when it comes to using technology in school, as a teacher is present and part of a learning model that also includes reflection, assessments, research, and more. With structure, guidance, and proper application, technology can be beneficial.
Importance of Safe Technology Use
Technology can play a major role in a teenager’s mental health. Simply watching a loop of funny videos creates a continuous stream of stimulation (laughing, smiles, etc.). This is how technology can start to affect us and it can create a dependence upon this form of stimulation. The brain starts to develop a need that cannot be replaced in real-life social interactions. The underdeveloped brain is constantly seeking dopamine and does not discern between stimuli, it just wants what can provide the quickest rush.
A healthy balance of technology use in teenagers can be achieved through moderation, education, and structure. These are things that adolescents can learn and can greatly benefit from. The role of technology in communication, connections, and emotional wellbeing is big and will keep growing as new developments are happening every day.
At Eva Carlston Academy, all of our students work with our team to learn safe and balanced use of technology. When students are ready they work with their individual therapist on social media specifically. By examining the role that it plays in their mental health, students learn how to make safe choices and recognize unhealthy patterns. We also offer an internet safety group where students learn how to identify and respond to difficult situations, communicate through the internet, recognize healthy ways to use technology, and seek help when needed.
Additionally, each year Eva Carlston provides a workshop for parents and students taught by the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. This workshop provides education and resources to students and their parents. Additional support groups are offered to help parents learn how to teach balance and help their teens navigate the use of technology to promote healthy brain development. Technology is in our lives every day and knowing the risks and benefits of it can help keep your teen safe.
Address: 4943 S Wasatch Boulevard, Salt Lake City, Utah 84124