The Adolescent Brain – What Every Parent Needs to Know

This fall, Project Cornerstone sponsored Dr. David Walsh in a full day event open to parents and educators in Silicon Valley.

Dr. David Walsh is a leading authority on brain development in children and teens and the impact of technology on children’s health and development.

Here are a few of the highlights from Dr. Walsh’s presentation:

1. Finally an explanation on what’s so bad about screen time!

  • Only 17% of our neurons are wired at birth.
  • Whatever our brains does more of, our brains gets better at. This is how the neurons get wired. It makes sense, practice makes perfect.
  • There are 2 types of attention: Reactive and Focused
    When something in a room moves, the reactive part of our brain is hard wired to respond. We have to look at the movement. Television and video games are making the reactive part of our brain stronger. As our brains get better and better at reactive attention, focused attention is not getting as much practice.
  • Kindergarten teachers to college professors don’t light up and blink or have the types of sound effects our youth are used to, so children of all ages as a group are having a harder time getting focused.

2. Why does it seem like sometimes teens are just not thinking?

  • The prefrontal cortex, sometimes known as the CEO of the brain, is not fully developed in teens.
  • Sometimes it is not fully developed until the age of 25.
  • Adults use this part of the brain to make rational decisions.
  • Since teens cannot really on their prefrontal cortex, they use their amygdala, emotion center of the brain, to make decisions!

This is why our teens still need us in their lives.
For ways to help your teen while their prefrontal cortex is developing, read this article. It’s a fun and easy read:

3. Why does my preteen/teen misunderstand my intentions?

  • Adults also use the prefrontal cortex to read body language and facial expression.
  • Teens cannot use their under developed prefrontal cortex, so again they rely on the amygdala, the emotion center.
  • The next time you are talking to your teen or preteen in a calm voice and they start yelling at you, “Why are you yelling at me?”, you’ll know it’s the amygdala that has taken over!

David Walsh has several great books for parents:

1. Why Do They Act That Way? A Survival Guide to the Adolescent Brain for You and Your Teen

2. No: Why Kids – of All Ages – Need to Hear It and Ways Parents Can Say It (Serves as the focal point of the national Say Yes to No campaign, which teaches parents and educators how to instill self-discipline in America’s children and ensure our kids our success in school and life.)

3. Smart Parenting, Smarter Kids: The One Brain Book You Need to Help Your Child Grow Brighter, Healthier, and Happier

A great article on the teen brain was also featured this fall on the cover of National Geographic magazine:


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