Thursday, 8 May 2014

Are you worried about the impact of screens on your children? 
Here are The Malevolent Seven:  7 serious issues which adults responsible for teenagers should feel empowered to tackle. Knowing more about the teenage brain helps us to understand why young people get led astray. What is out there to tempt our children and what can we do about it?

1. Boys & Risks
                    The male brain seeks out novelty and risk from around age 11 or 12, because the resulting excitement gives the brain a rush of dopamine.  This biochemical is the human body’s bricks and mortar vital for the massive brain rebuild programme, which takes place during adolescence (and lasts until 24 for boys).  Today's online activities more than satisfy a boy’s innate desire for risk and experimentation, but gaming, pornography or gambling are not what nature intended, these activities seriously mess with the brain’s re-wiring at the worst time.  Boys should be pushing their limits in physical pursuits because this is what gets them ready to move out of the safe confines of home and feel motivated by the challenges of the big world.
2.Girls & Anxiety
                    The female teenage brain, by contrast, views risk as scary and girls may, generally, react with feelings of anxiety.  Persistent and high levels of anxiety make girls more vulnerable to self-harming activities (like cutting and eating disorders) as the body subconsciously tries to re-balance the stress chemicals with calming serotonin or feel-good dopamine.  Any behaviour, which causes harm, gives the body a short-lived “high”.  Meanwhile, a healthy outlet for girls to alleviate stress is socializing and talking through their dramas.  However many of today’s on-line socializing activities can unwittingly trigger even higher stress levels.
3. Gaming is as addictive as alcohol/drugs.  
The teenage brain is busy laying down (neural) pathways for adulthood and is vulnerable to outside influence.  It may take a teenage brain only 18 months to establish addiction pathways, and it does this through over indulgence in any activity, or substance, which gives the brain a rush of exciting, pleasurable dopamine. If 10% of on-line gamers are addicts, that’s about 2m people in the UK, with a high proportion of young men.  With many on-line games being offered for free, some with pornographic content, you need to check what your children are up to if they are spending hours and hours captivated by their screen.
4. 250m pornographic pages & sites 
 These are available on-line, making them easy to access or stumble across, and the UK is one of the biggest on-line porn users.  On-line pornography has a massive impact on a teenager’s sexual template (which is developing between around aged 10 –17).  One of the biggest casualties of watching porn regularly, prior to having a real intimate, sexual relationship is the increasing number of 20-year-old men who are suffering from persistent erectile dysfunction.  Many young people consider failure in the bedroom to be a normal result of alcohol or stress.
5. Social media and on-line communication 
 Data sharing means that all information posted on-line can potentially be accessed by anyone, not just our nearest and dearest.  Anyone, and that might include future employers, can access more information about your teenager's university antics than they might be prepared to divulge in an interview.  Younger teenagers do not yet have the brain maturity to make well-judged, rational decisions about the long-term consequences of what they publicise.  What may have seemed like harmless fun at 12, may evoke shame or embarrassment at 18.  A teenager’s reality is how they interact with their on-line world and what effects this has on how they shape up as an adult.
6. Relationships 
 These are shaped by human interaction and communication.  Communication via phone and the use of Apps like Instagram, Snapchat or Tinder offer a whole new way to attract and hook up with the opposite sex. If a healthy long-term relationship is built on developing trust, mutuality and getting to know someone, then digital communication offers an instant gratification route to intimacy and by-passes the need to put down solid foundations.
7. Legal highs 
 They have put an end to drugs being hard to access, elite and relatively expensive, now you can buy them on-line and the postman delivers them to your door.  Legal highs conjure up ideas of harmless ways to have fun and benefit users because they are readily available, cheap, more effective and less damaging than alcohol.  The reality of many legal highs is far from this fantasy.  Young people in their 20s who suffer from untreatable incontinence as a consequence of taking Kettamine when it was “legal” may wish that they had not been the guinea pigs testing out this particular drug.

The internet as provider of information, marketing, entertainment and instant communication is a boon, but like all good things it needs to be understood, respected and managed in a balanced way.  
Our book helps parents find their own way to negotiate a path for their family through today’s teenage world and to feel empowered by the journey ahead. Click on the AMAZON link above and buy our book NOW.