⌚ Teenage Brains Essay

Wednesday, December 08, 2021 12:57:42 PM

Teenage Brains Essay



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The Teenage Brain Is Primed For Addiction

Our mission at AdmitRx is to provide pre-medical students with affordable, personalized, high-quality guidance towards becoming an admitted medical student. These are all words one would use to describe their motivation by a higher calling to achieve something great. Such an experience is often cited as the reason for students to become physicians; I was not one of these students. Instead of waiting for an event like this, I chose to get involved in the activities that I found most invigorating. Slowly but surely, my interests, hobbies, and experiences inspired me to pursue medicine. As a medical student, one must possess a solid academic foundation to facilitate an understanding of physical health and illness.

Since high school, I found science courses the most appealing and tended to devote most of my time to their exploration. I also enjoyed learning about the music, food, literature, and language of other cultures through Latin and French class. I chose the Medical Sciences program because it allowed for flexibility in course selection. I have studied several scientific disciplines in depth like physiology and pathology while taking classes in sociology, psychology, and classical studies. Such a diverse academic portfolio has strengthened my ability to consider multiple viewpoints and attack problems from several angles. I hope to relate to patients from all walks of life as a physician and offer them personalized treatment.

I was motivated to travel as much as possible by learning about other cultures in school. Exposing myself to different environments offered me perspective on universal traits that render us human. I want to pursue medicine because I believe that this principle of commonality relates to medical practice in providing objective and compassionate care for all. Combined with my love for travel, this realization took me to Nepal with Volunteer Abroad VA to build a school for a local orphanage 4. Rooted in different backgrounds, we often had conflicting perspectives; even a simple task such as bricklaying could stir up an argument because each person had their own approach. However, we discussed why we came to Nepal and reached the conclusion that all we wanted was to build a place of education for the children.

Our unifying goal allowed us to reach compromises and truly appreciate the value of teamwork. The insight I gained from my Nepal excursion encouraged me to undertake and develop the role of VA campus representative 4. Unfortunately, many students are not equipped with the resources to volunteer abroad; I raised awareness about local initiatives so everyone had a chance to do their part. I tried to avoid pushing solely for international volunteerism for this reason and also because it can undermine the work of local skilled workers and foster dependency. Nevertheless, I took on this position with VA because I felt that the potential benefits were more significant than the disadvantages. Likewise, doctors must constantly weigh out the pros and cons of a situation to help a patient make the best choice.

I tried to dispel fears of traveling abroad by sharing first-hand experiences so that students could make an informed decision. Fifteen years later, during my own teenage years as a member of Generation X, smoking had lost some of its romance, but independence was definitely still in. The shift is stunning: 12th-graders in were going out less often than eighth-graders did as recently as But only about 56 percent of high-school seniors in went out on dates; for Boomers and Gen Xers, the number was about 85 percent.

The decline in dating tracks with a decline in sexual activity. The drop is the sharpest for ninth-graders, among whom the number of sexually active teens has been cut by almost 40 percent since The average teen now has had sex for the first time by the spring of 11th grade, a full year later than the average Gen Xer. Fewer teens having sex has contributed to what many see as one of the most positive youth trends in recent years: The teen birth rate hit an all-time low in , down 67 percent since its modern peak, in In conversation after conversation, teens described getting their license as something to be nagged into by their parents—a notion that would have been unthinkable to previous generations.

In earlier eras, kids worked in great numbers, eager to finance their freedom or prodded by their parents to learn the value of a dollar. In the late s, 77 percent of high-school seniors worked for pay during the school year; by the mids, only 55 percent did. The number of eighth-graders who work for pay has been cut in half. These declines accelerated during the Great Recession, but teen employment has not bounced back, even though job availability has. Of course, putting off the responsibilities of adulthood is not an iGen innovation. Gen Xers, in the s, were the first to postpone the traditional markers of adulthood. Young Gen Xers were just about as likely to drive, drink alcohol, and date as young Boomers had been, and more likely to have sex and get pregnant as teens.

But as they left their teenage years behind, Gen Xers married and started careers later than their Boomer predecessors had. Gen X managed to stretch adolescence beyond all previous limits: Its members started becoming adults earlier and finished becoming adults later. Beginning with Millennials and continuing with iGen, adolescence is contracting again—but only because its onset is being delayed. Across a range of behaviors—drinking, dating, spending time unsupervised— year-olds now act more like year-olds used to, and year-olds more like year-olds. Childhood now stretches well into high school. Shifts in the economy, and parenting, certainly play a role. In an information economy that rewards higher education more than early work history, parents may be inclined to encourage their kids to stay home and study rather than to get a part-time job.

But eighth-, 10th-, and 12th-graders in the s actually spend less time on homework than Gen X teens did in the early s. High-school seniors headed for four-year colleges spend about the same amount of time on homework as their predecessors did. The time that seniors spend on activities such as student clubs and sports and exercise has changed little in recent years. Combined with the decline in working for pay, this means iGen teens have more leisure time than Gen X teens did, not less. So what are they doing with all that time? They are on their phone, in their room, alone and often distressed. She spent much of her summer keeping up with friends, but nearly all of it was over text or Snapchat.

In this, too, she is typical. The number of teens who get together with their friends nearly every day dropped by more than 40 percent from to ; the decline has been especially steep recently. You might expect that teens spend so much time in these new spaces because it makes them happy, but most data suggest that it does not. The Monitoring the Future survey, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and designed to be nationally representative, has asked 12th-graders more than 1, questions every year since and queried eighth- and 10th-graders since The survey asks teens how happy they are and also how much of their leisure time they spend on various activities, including nonscreen activities such as in-person social interaction and exercise, and, in recent years, screen activities such as using social media, texting, and browsing the web.

The results could not be clearer: Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on nonscreen activities are more likely to be happy. All screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness. Admittedly, 10 hours a week is a lot. But those who spend six to nine hours a week on social media are still 47 percent more likely to say they are unhappy than those who use social media even less. The opposite is true of in-person interactions.

If you were going to give advice for a happy adolescence based on this survey, it would be straightforward: Put down the phone, turn off the laptop, and do something—anything—that does not involve a screen. But recent research suggests that screen time, in particular social-media use, does indeed cause unhappiness. One study asked college students with a Facebook page to complete short surveys on their phone over the course of two weeks. Social-networking sites like Facebook promise to connect us to friends. But the portrait of iGen teens emerging from the data is one of a lonely, dislocated generation. Teens who spend more time on social media also spend more time with their friends in person, on average—highly social teens are more social in both venues, and less social teens are less so.

But at the generational level, when teens spend more time on smartphones and less time on in-person social interactions, loneliness is more common. So is depression. Once again, the effect of screen activities is unmistakable: The more time teens spend looking at screens, the more likely they are to report symptoms of depression. Eighth-graders who are heavy users of social media increase their risk of depression by 27 percent, while those who play sports, go to religious services, or even do homework more than the average teen cut their risk significantly. Teens who spend three hours a day or more on electronic devices are 35 percent more likely to have a risk factor for suicide, such as making a suicide plan.

As teens have started spending less time together, they have become less likely to kill one another, and more likely to kill themselves. In , for the first time in 24 years, the teen suicide rate was higher than the teen homicide rate. Depression and suicide have many causes; too much technology is clearly not the only one. And the teen suicide rate was even higher in the s, long before smartphones existed.

Then again, about four times as many Americans now take antidepressants, which are often effective in treating severe depression, the type most strongly linked to suicide. For all their power to link kids day and night, social media also exacerbate the age-old teen concern about being left out. Those not invited to come along are keenly aware of it. Accordingly, the number of teens who feel left out has reached all-time highs across age groups. Like the increase in loneliness, the upswing in feeling left out has been swift and significant.

This trend has been especially steep among girls. Forty-eight percent more girls said they often felt left out in than in , compared with 27 percent more boys. Girls use social media more often, giving them additional opportunities to feel excluded and lonely when they see their friends or classmates getting together without them. Social media levy a psychic tax on the teen doing the posting as well, as she anxiously awaits the affirmation of comments and likes. The rise in suicide, too, is more pronounced among girls. Although the rate increased for both sexes, three times as many toyear-old girls killed themselves in as in , compared with twice as many boys.

The suicide rate is still higher for boys, in part because they use more-lethal methods, but girls are beginning to close the gap. Social media give middle- and high-school girls a platform on which to carry out the style of aggression they favor, ostracizing and excluding other girls around the clock. Social-media companies are of course aware of these problems, and to one degree or another have endeavored to prevent cyberbullying. But their various motivations are, to say the least, complex. I n July , a year-old girl in North Texas woke to the smell of something burning.

Her phone had overheated and melted into the sheets. Why , I wondered, would anyone sleep with her phone beside her in bed? And who could slumber deeply inches from a buzzing phone? Curious, I asked my undergraduate students at San Diego State University what they do with their phone while they sleep. Their answers were a profile in obsession.

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