Teen Brain and Technology

Andrew Wake Newsletter, Parenting

I have lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked about the topic of technology and teens. Most of my colleagues have concerns about it for their patients. And most of my friends are concerned about it for their children. The stories of what looks like dependence on technology are everywhere: the teenage girl’s terror of losing her “streaks”, the boy’s rage if Fortnite cannot be played immediately, the all-consuming focus of the person’s mind on the device, the lowered self-esteem with inadequate “Likes” from others…and it goes on and on.

My usual response is that the introduction of technology is so new, that we just don’t know for sure what the effect is. However, the data is starting to come in, and it doesn’t look good. We know that addiction-type behaviour rates in teenagers (drugs, alcohol, smoking, sex, teen pregnancy) have halved over the past 12 years, but that anxiety-depression has doubled. We know that sexual dysfunction rates in men under 40 have gone from a historically stable 1-2% of the male population, to 20-25% since the introduction of ubiquitous streaming porn in 2007. That’s a 1000% increase. Correlation is not causation, but these numbers are big enough to be significantly concerning. Just how much access to technology should the developing minds of our children have? What is reasonable?

I’m doing a talk for parents in Darebin Council in May and we’ll be looking at teens, their issues and how we can help. How to put reasonable limits on technology will be part of it.

As part of my own research I came across an ABC podcast “Conversations” with Richard Fidler. He had on David Gillespie, a lawyer and investigative journalist who had just researched and written a book titled “Teen Brain“.

The 46 minute podcast I heard was very easy to listen to, and covers many of the questions people are asking, and many of the questions we don’t know to ask.

I don’t think what David talks about in the podcast is going to be the last word on the effects of technology on children. But it is a good summary of his perspective on the dangers for those of you interested.

You can find the podcast here.