Do you check your phone for messages every few minutes? A skyrocketing number of teens do. They’re the first generation to grow up plugged into technology 24/7. From the moment they wake up until they fall asleep, they’re updating Facebook, texting, and watching YouTube videos. Even though it sounds like a harmless distraction, experts say all that electronic activity is permanently re-wiring their developing brains, and the negative effects can be seen immediately and long-term.
Harvard Medical School professor Dr. Michael Rich says MRI scans show kids’ brains no longer reward them for focusing on one activity at a time, like reading. Instead, their brain rewards them for jumping from activity to activity. The hectic brain pace is making it impossible for a lot of teens to focus on schoolwork, and it’s causing their grades to crash. Like one 14-year-old girl we read about. Like a lot of teens, she’s a super texter, and sends and receives 27,000 texts a month. She used to be a straight-A student but her grades are tanking. She can’t focus 100% on studying because she’s always being interrupted by texts. Even though she knows technology is killing her GPA, she admits she can’t stop.
Experts say the damage will only get worse as teens grow into adults, because their inability to concentrate will cost them jobs. After all, who will want to hire a police officer or teacher if they can’t go a few minutes without texting? In fact, researchers say brains need hours a day to rest and be distraction-free. That’s how the brain makes connections between ideas. Without mental rest, you can do all the studying in the world, but it’ll never sink in because your brain is constantly distracted. It never relaxes long enough to store the information away. So, how do you stop your kid from permanently burning out their brain? Experts say make sure they have at least a couple hours of electronic-free time after school. Even if that means confiscating their cell phone while they’re doing homework – and after 9pm, so they can sleep.