Character Education

Article: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/whats-wrong-with-the-teen-brain/

An 18-year-old boy in Georgia drowns after he is tied to a shopping cart and pushed into a lake while horsing around with friends after his high school graduation. A young man, 19, causes a multi-car accident when he faints from holding his breath while driving through a tunnel in Portland, Ore.

Tragic stories of teens doing stupid things — boys in particular — constantly make the news. And there are biological reasons behind it: this type of risky, defiant and downright dangerous behavior has its roots in distinct differences in the developing brain of a young person.

“The brain of an adolescent is very different from the brain of an adult,” Dr. Amir Levine, an adult, child and adolescent psychiatrist and neuroscientist at the division of child and adolescent psychiatry at Columbia University, told CBS News. “The brain goes through huge changes, initially it grows and then it shrinks. It basically undergoes what we call pruning, which means that the brain becomes more efficient and it does away with neurons that it doesn’t need.”

New data from the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shows just how many teens engage in hazardous behavior.

The report finds that despite public health campaigns and a relative awareness, teens are still having unprotected sex; in 2013, the number of sexually-active teens who used condoms was 59 percent, down 4 points from a decade before. Teens also continue to text and drive even though more than 40 states have passed laws that make it illegal. Nationwide, 41 percent of students who have driven a vehicle during in the past 30 days reported they had texted or emailed while driving.

But the CDC report does offer a glimmer of hope because some risky behaviors have actually declined. The percentage of high school students nationwide who had been in a physical fight at least once during the past 12 months decreased from 42 percent in 1991 to 25 percent in 2013. Cigarette smoking is less common among young people as well. The report finds 15.7 percent of teenagers regularly smoked cigarettes in 2013.

Risky teen behavior can have deadly consequences. According the National Institutes of Health, death rates from accidents increase dramatically during early and late adolescence. Death by injury is as much as six times higher among teens age 15 to 19 than kids between age 10 and 14. Overall crime rates are highest among young males.

In the brazen teenage brain, the initial expansion in grey matter means neural pathways are more plentiful, which makes a young person more open to experiences and willing to try out and learn new things than adults generally are. But this can be a dangerous tendency — even more so when teen brains join together in a pack.

Research has found that peer pressure activates certain brain signals that are linked to the powerful drug-like interplay of risk and reward. And a captive audience is the quickest way to bolster the brain’s reward system.

That may be why teenage boys constantly egg each other on to fight, play harder, drink more and drive faster.

Laws in a number of states recognize the serious repercussions of this very real phenomenon. Forty-seven states now place restrictions on the number or age of passengers who can ride along with a teen driver, since teens having friends in the car has been found to be even more hazardous than alcohol intoxication when it comes to operating a motor vehicle.

“The daredevil brain, it goes into even hyper-mode when adolescents are in groups, and in general because testosterone causes more aggression,” explained Levine. “Adolescents are very much conditioned to peer pressure. And we see again across species, even adolescent mice will drink a lot more alcohol when they’re in a group of adolescent mice than adult mice when you give them the opportunity to drink alcohol.”

And it doesn’t help that sex is very suddenly — and constantly — on the male teen brain. Testosterone makes boys “push the envelope” even more.

Social and cultural roles further encourage risky behavior among young men. Michael Thompson, psychologist and author of three books about boys, including “It’s a Boy!: Your Son’s Development from Birth to 18,” says risk-taking behavior is driven by the desire to fit into society’s standards for masculinity.

“Boys believe there’s a test to pass for manhood and this is different than a test for womanhood and femininity,” he told CBS News. “You want to be brave and funny and tie yourself to a shopping cart.”

Thankfully, however, the inherent differences of a teen brain can also facilitate positive and productive behavior, said Levine. These extra neural pathways fuel a young person’s aspirations, interests and education and ultimately prepare them to thrive as an adult.

As long as they don’t do something too terribly foolish first.

In brief, children around the county have had a better education because of the influence of this lady, Rita F. Pierson.

NCYI had the privilege of working with Rita and having her speak at many of our conferences. If you have ever heard Rita speak, you’ve never forgotten the experience. If you have never heard her before, it’s more than worth the click and time to hear her inspirational message for educators. Rita passed away in June.

Click here to hear one of her messages.

Click on this link to see a few of her quotes.

Link to article: http://www.wrcbtv.com/story/22288684/students-cant-resist-distraction-for-two-minutes-and-neither-can-you

NBC – Are gadgets making us dumber? Two new studies suggest they might be. One found that people who are interrupted by technology score 20 percent lower on a standard cognition test. A second demonstrated that some students, even when on their best behavior, can’t concentrate on homework for more than two minutes without distracting themselves by using social media or writing an email.

Interruptions are the scourge of modern life. Our days and nights are full of gadgets that ping, buzz and beep their way into our attention, taking us away from whatever we are doing.

We’ve known for a while that distractions hurt productivity at work. Depressing research by Gloria Mark at the University of California, Irvine, says that typical office workers only get 11 continuous minutes to work on a task before interruption. With smartphones reaching near ubiquity, the problem of tech-driven multitasking — juggling daily tasks with email, text messages, social media etc — is coming to a head.

Multitasking has been the subject of popular debate, but among neuroscientists, there is very little of that. Brain researchers say that what many people call multitasking should really be called “rapid toggling” between tasks, as the brain focuses quickly on one topic, then switches to another, and another. As all economics students know, switching is not free. It involves “switching costs” — in this case, the time it takes to re-immerse your mind in one topic or another.

Researchers say only the simplest of tasks are candidates for multitasking, and all but one of those tasks must involve automaticity. If you are good at folding laundry, you can probably fold laundry and watch TV at the same time, for example.

Overestimated abilities
Despite this concern among brain scientists, many people overestimate their ability to multitask, such as the college student who thinks he can text and listen to a lecture simultaneously. He cannot, says brain expert Annie Murphy Paul, who writes “The Brilliant Blog.”

“Multitasking while doing academic work — which is very, very common among young people — leads to spottier, shallower, less flexible learning,” Paul warned in a recent column.

The two studies mentioned above underscore this point.

In the first, Alessandro Acquisti and Eyal Peer at Carnegie Mellon University’s Human Computer Interaction lab recruited 136 college students to take a standard test of cognitive abilities, and invented a controlled method of distraction. Test-takers were interrupted via instant message, which they were told contained important additional instructions, during the exam.

(The research was conducted in concert with research for The Plateau Effect, a book I recently co-authored with Hugh Thompson.)

The interrupted group answered correctly 20 percent less often than members of a control group.

The Carnegie Mellon test might seem a bit contrived, however, because the control group was pretty unrealistic. It’s hard to find a group of college students who could take a test without being interrupted by gadgets.

Larry Rosen, a professor at California State University-Dominguez Hills, published a study in the May issue of Computers in Human Behavior that attempted to quantify how often students of all ages are distracted by technology while studying. Even under ideal circumstances, the results were dismal.

Rosen’s observers followed 263 students into their normal study environments — bedroom, library, den — and told them to work on an important school assignment for 15 minutes. Even knowing they were being watched, the students couldn’t resist texting or using social media. So-called “on-task” behavior started declining at about the two minute mark, and overall, only 65 percent of the time was used on schoolwork.

“We really assumed we set up a situation where people would try to impress us,” said Rosen, an expert in the psychology of technology. “Frankly, I was appalled at how quickly they became distracted.”

‘Problem built into the brain’
The two studies, published closely together, generated strong reaction, particularly from students.

“Yes, we text in class, but if my grade in that class is and A or a B I don’t see why it’s a problem,” wrote one student to Paul.

It’s a big problem for both students and adults, Paul counters, for plenty of reasons. Assignments inevitably take longer when learners split their time between tasks, she says. All that task-switching wears out the brain and makes learners more tired and less competent. Most important, several studies have shown that information learned while partially distracted is often quickly forgotten, so the learning is tragically shallow.

The key to transferring new information from the brain’s short-term to long-term memory is a process called “encoding.” Without deep concentration, encoding is unlikely to occur, explained Nicholas Carr in his book “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.”

So Paul is among a group of researchers who worry that the digital divide is not about the gadget haves and have nots, but rather about those who can resist the constant distracting tug of technology and those who cannot. She compares it to the famous marshmallow test, which shows that children who can delay eating one marshmallow for 10 or 15 minutes on the promise of gaining a second one are the most likely to succeed later in life. In a new “marshmallow” test, educators or employers might test to see how long people can resist “a blinking inbox or a buzzing phone.”

“There are those people who think that multitasking is simply the way life is now and we should be focusing on getting better at it … that we are a bunch of old fogies who don’t understand,” Paul said. “But scientifically, there is no evidence for that. There are fundamental biological limits to what the brain can pay attention to. This is a problem built into the brain.”

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