Student Course References

Section 1: How does my brain work?

  1. Albert Einstein  was 15% bigger than the average male brain
  2. Screen activities tend to activate and pave the reward center in Limbic Center 
  3. Cerebellum: It is only 10% of brain volume but holds over 50% of the brain’s neurons. REF
  4. What is needed for healthy brain development: Children’s activities create the neuronal structure for their future brain. This is why we say that brains are activity dependent. At birth the brain has a lifetime supply of brain cells (neurons); it is the connections (synapses) that account for brain growth. The more the baby is cognitively stimulated (healthy stimulation) the more connections will be made. This is why we say that the child’s brain is shaped by the activities it does. See Dimitri Christakis – Media and Children-TED Talk
  5. Screen use does not strengthen the pathways in the Judgment Center. REF
  6. Your brain goes through major changes during your teens. “Everything you experience during this time can affect your brain development. It’s essential to challenge your brain by trying new things—like sports, music, and cooking—so it can help you process information and solve problems in the future. Screens may always be a part of your life—but they don’t have to be the main part.” REF.

 

Section 2: How can I improve my brain?

  1. Exercise and sunshine are proven to increase our mood
  2. Brain Building Activities
    • Family connection  The need for family attachment is the most essential need for all humans. Excellent info here and also see book by Gordon Newfield, Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers.
    • Exercise: One study showed that when children jogged for 30 minutes 3 times a week their cognitive performance increased after only 12 weeks – and it plummeted when exercise stopped. REF. Pediatric Occupational Therapist, Cris Rowan teaches, “Humans have two sensorimotor systems that are stimulated by movement: the vestibular system located in the brain (often referenced as our inner ear) and the proprioceptive system located in our muscles. These two systems integrate with each other and with the visual system to provide core stability, motor coordination, and balance. Children who don’t move enough, don’t adequately develop these essential sensorimotor systems resulting in poor core stability, poor coordination, and poor balance.” Ref: Email communications and Podcast here and here. 
    • Screen-free social time
    • Playing Music
    • Writing on paper. The brain needs the hands to reach its full developmental potential. Handwriting is important for the early recruitment of brain regions needed for letter processing and reading. According to a study conducted by the University of Washington, learning to print, write in cursive, and type on a keyboard all contribute to brain development in students. But instruction in cursive writing in particular seems to produce the greatest neurological effects. Brain scans show that more of the areas of the brain associated with memory formation are activated when writing than when typing (Darling 2014).
    • Reading book Reading for pleasure at 15 is a top predictor for academic & life success. (Renaissance) It is found to be more important for children’s cognitive development than their parents’ level of education. Patricia Greenfield, professor of psychology at UCLA, analyzed more than 50 studies on learning and points out that “reading for pleasure among young people has decreased in recent decades, which is problematic because studies show that reading develops imagination, induction, reflection and critical thinking, as well as vocabulary…in a way that visual media such as video games and television do not.” Quote here
    • Art & Drama
    • Sleep Sleep is especially vital for growing and developing brains. This is especially important for the school-aged child to get enough sleep to properly function in schools. The recommended amount is 9-12 hours for a 5-12 year old. According to the Sleep Foundation, sleep deprivation impairs attention and working memory, but it also affects other functions, such as long-term memory and decision-making. Lack of sleep can affect mood causing irritability, exaggerated emotional reactions. 
    • Nature Book: Last Child in the Woods Nature is a natural stress reducer and according to Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, “New studies suggest that exposure to nature may reduce the symptoms of ADHD, and that it can improve all children’s cognitive abilities and resistance to negative stresses and depression.” (35)
  3. How Do We Get Better at Any Skill or Activity? Book: Grit
  4. Executive Function Skills Review Here

 

Section 3: Does screen time change my brain?

  1. Scientists have discovered that screen time—too much and certain content—can harm areas of our brains. REF
  2. There are studies that show less-developed “wiring” in the brain and also lower language and other skills for preschool-age children who spend too much time using media like TV, phones, and video games. Studies led by Dr. John Hutton, MD
  3. Too much stimulation leads to more screen cravings and addiction. Book: Dopamine Nation
  4. Impact of screens on the brain. Information taken from Dr. John Hutton phone calls, emails and Podcast here.
  5. The consistency of these brain findings involving young children and those involving teens suggests that there may be a cumulative impact of digital media use, which tends to increase with age. Thus, limiting screen time and encouraging healthy alternatives as early as possible is a sound strategy to help children grow up healthy, well-adjusted, and successful in school and life.Hutton
  6. Thinner brains. “Too much screen time may cause physical changes to your brain. The cortex is the outer layer of the brain that processes information. During adolescence, the cortex undergoes critical development. Screen time may affect its growth. A study called Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) revealed that some kids who use screens more than seven hours a day had a thinner cortex than those who used screens less. Future studies hope to show how this will affect kids’ brains over time.” Here.
  7. “A brain hooked on the internet, phones, or tablets looks like a brain hooked on heroin—an addictive drug. There is a striking difference compared to healthy adolescents. The brain’s processing center is not the same as a normal child.” Dr. David. R. Rosenberg, MD, from talk with Rosenberg here, A&E Voices Magnified here, Additional references here, here, here, here, and here.
  8. When we use an interactive screen, we are using limited brain regions that control vision, movement, and rewards/pleasure. We are not using the frontal cortex—judgment center—in the brain as much. REF REF
  9. MRI findings that have shown that areas of the brain controlling language, executive functioning (control), and imagination are more highly involved and working together during book-reading than they are when children watch videos, where most of the activity involves vision and “watching.” time spent reading was positively correlated with higher functional connectivity between the Brodmann Area 37 and left-sided language, visual, and cognitive control regions, but screen time was related to lower connectivity between the left visual word form area and regions related to language and cognitive control (Horowitz-Kraus and Hutton, 2017). 
  10. ABCD Brain Study 

Section 1: How does my brain work?

  1. Albert Einstein  was 15% bigger than the average male brain
  2. Screen activities tend to activate and pave the reward center in Limbic Center 
  3. Cerebellum: It is only 10% of brain volume but holds over 50% of the brain’s neurons. REF
  4. What is needed for healthy brain development: Children’s activities create the neuronal structure for their future brain. This is why we say that brains are activity dependent. At birth the brain has a lifetime supply of brain cells (neurons); it is the connections (synapses) that account for brain growth. The more the baby is cognitively stimulated (healthy stimulation) the more connections will be made. This is why we say that the child’s brain is shaped by the activities it does. See Dimitri Christakis – Media and Children-TED Talk
  5. Screen use does not strengthen the pathways in the Judgment Center. REF
  6. Your brain goes through major changes during your teens. “Everything you experience during this time can affect your brain development. It’s essential to challenge your brain by trying new things—like sports, music, and cooking—so it can help you process information and solve problems in the future. Screens may always be a part of your life—but they don’t have to be the main part.” REF.

 

Section 2: How can I improve my brain?

  1. Exercise and sunshine are proven to increase our mood
  2. Brain Building Activities
    • Family connection  The need for family attachment is the most essential need for all humans. Excellent info here and also see book by Gordon Newfield, Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers.
    • Exercise: One study showed that when children jogged for 30 minutes 3 times a week their cognitive performance increased after only 12 weeks – and it plummeted when exercise stopped. REF. Pediatric Occupational Therapist, Cris Rowan teaches, “Humans have two sensorimotor systems that are stimulated by movement: the vestibular system located in the brain (often referenced as our inner ear) and the proprioceptive system located in our muscles. These two systems integrate with each other and with the visual system to provide core stability, motor coordination, and balance. Children who don’t move enough, don’t adequately develop these essential sensorimotor systems resulting in poor core stability, poor coordination, and poor balance.” Ref: Email communications and Podcast here and here. 
    • Screen-free social time
    • Playing Music
    • Writing on paper. The brain needs the hands to reach its full developmental potential. Handwriting is important for the early recruitment of brain regions needed for letter processing and reading. According to a study conducted by the University of Washington, learning to print, write in cursive, and type on a keyboard all contribute to brain development in students. But instruction in cursive writing in particular seems to produce the greatest neurological effects. Brain scans show that more of the areas of the brain associated with memory formation are activated when writing than when typing (Darling 2014).
    • Reading book Reading for pleasure at 15 is a top predictor for academic & life success. (Renaissance) It is found to be more important for children’s cognitive development than their parents’ level of education. Patricia Greenfield, professor of psychology at UCLA, analyzed more than 50 studies on learning and points out that “reading for pleasure among young people has decreased in recent decades, which is problematic because studies show that reading develops imagination, induction, reflection and critical thinking, as well as vocabulary…in a way that visual media such as video games and television do not.” Quote here
    • Art & Drama
    • Sleep Sleep is especially vital for growing and developing brains. This is especially important for the school-aged child to get enough sleep to properly function in schools. The recommended amount is 9-12 hours for a 5-12 year old. According to the Sleep Foundation, sleep deprivation impairs attention and working memory, but it also affects other functions, such as long-term memory and decision-making. Lack of sleep can affect mood causing irritability, exaggerated emotional reactions. 
    • Nature Book: Last Child in the Woods Nature is a natural stress reducer and according to Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, “New studies suggest that exposure to nature may reduce the symptoms of ADHD, and that it can improve all children’s cognitive abilities and resistance to negative stresses and depression.” (35)
  3. How Do We Get Better at Any Skill or Activity? Book: Grit
  4. Executive Function Skills Review Here

 

Section 3: Does screen time change my brain?

  1. Scientists have discovered that screen time—too much and certain content—can harm areas of our brains. REF
  2. There are studies that show less-developed “wiring” in the brain and also lower language and other skills for preschool-age children who spend too much time using media like TV, phones, and video games. Studies led by Dr. John Hutton, MD
  3. Too much stimulation leads to more screen cravings and addiction. Book: Dopamine Nation
  4. Impact of screens on the brain. Information taken from Dr. John Hutton phone calls, emails and Podcast here.
  5. The consistency of these brain findings involving young children and those involving teens suggests that there may be a cumulative impact of digital media use, which tends to increase with age. Thus, limiting screen time and encouraging healthy alternatives as early as possible is a sound strategy to help children grow up healthy, well-adjusted, and successful in school and life.Hutton
  6. Thinner brains. “Too much screen time may cause physical changes to your brain. The cortex is the outer layer of the brain that processes information. During adolescence, the cortex undergoes critical development. Screen time may affect its growth. A study called Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) revealed that some kids who use screens more than seven hours a day had a thinner cortex than those who used screens less. Future studies hope to show how this will affect kids’ brains over time.” Here.
  7. “A brain hooked on the internet, phones, or tablets looks like a brain hooked on heroin—an addictive drug. There is a striking difference compared to healthy adolescents. The brain’s processing center is not the same as a normal child.” Dr. David. R. Rosenberg, MD, from talk with Rosenberg here, A&E Voices Magnified here, Additional references here, here, here, here, and here.
  8. When we use an interactive screen, we are using limited brain regions that control vision, movement, and rewards/pleasure. We are not using the frontal cortex—judgment center—in the brain as much. REF REF
  9. MRI findings that have shown that areas of the brain controlling language, executive functioning (control), and imagination are more highly involved and working together during book-reading than they are when children watch videos, where most of the activity involves vision and “watching.” time spent reading was positively correlated with higher functional connectivity between the Brodmann Area 37 and left-sided language, visual, and cognitive control regions, but screen time was related to lower connectivity between the left visual word form area and regions related to language and cognitive control (Horowitz-Kraus and Hutton, 2017). 
  10. ABCD Brain Study 

Section 1: Why are screens so much fun?

  1. Dopamine is the underlying factor in addictions. “The hallmark of any addictive substance or behavior is that it releases a lot of dopamine in our brain’s reward pathway. Anna Lembke, Podcast min 28:34  Also Book: Dopamine Nation, Anna Lembke.
  2. How dopamine works:Dopamine is this really powerful, important molecule in the brain that helps us experience pleasure. It’s not the only neurotransmitter involved in pleasure, but it’s a really, really important one. And if you want to think about something  that most people don’t know about dopamine, which I think is really interesting, is that we are always releasing dopamine at a kind of tonic baseline rate. And it’s really the deviation from that baseline, rather than hits of dopamine in a vacuum, that makes a difference.” Anna Lembke, Podcast here min 8:39
  3. The right amount of dopamine
  4. Too much dopamine “Cross-addiction comes in. Once you’ve been addicted to a substance, severely addicted, that makes you more vulnerable to addiction to any substance (or activity). Anna Lembke, Podcast min 32:16  There seems to be a brain circuit for pleasure and pain and addiction and many things can plug into that circuit. Min 1:18:05 in the same podcast.
  5. Tolerance. “Over time, a player’s need to increase their time investment in gaming appeared to be a consequence of playing to fulfill higher standards of play in order to feel satisfied or immersed.” REF

 

Section 2: What is screen addiction?

  1.  World Health Organization. It’s now proven that video games and social media are addictive activities. WHO REF
  2. Screen addiction: The screen time behavior starts to take priority over a person’s life to the exclusion of behaviors essential to good health. “If we expose ourselves chronically to substances or behaviors that repeatedly release large amounts of dopamine in our brain’s reward pathway, then we can change our baseline and actually lower it over time, as our brain tries to compensate for all of that dopamine, which is more than we were designed to experience.” Anna Lembke, Podcast min 9:45
  3. Social media platforms leverage the reward system in ways similar to what gambling does to promote usage as much as possible through activation of the dopaminergic pathways Study Here.
  4. Warning signs of screen addiction
  5. Effects of screen addiction
    • Disconnection from friends and family
    • Experiencing toxic environments
    • Poor mental health’
    • Physical health problems
    • Reduced motivation 
    • Dependency & Addiction
  6. the average teen spends nine hours a day on a device REF
  7. Evidence has recently been presented which connects successful social interactions and the dopaminergic mesolimbic system Study Here

 

Section 3: Why do I crave my screens?

  1. Scientists work hard to keep our eyes glued to our screens. Freed
  2. Oxytocin and phones. 
  3. How social media companies make money. Social Dilemma 
  4. Game rewards 
  5. In game purchases. REF
  6. The video-gaming industry has a saying for ‘free-to-play’ games: ‘The more you play… the more you pay. Richard Freed
  7. Why can’t we put down our phones? Smartphone rewards
  8. Algorithms

Section 1: What is the biggest problem with screen time?

  1. Chronic stress can be caused by spending too much time on screens. 
  2. Our brains interpret threats on a screen the same way they interpret real-life threats, even if we know the threats on a screen aren’t real. 
  3. Immersive screen activities trigger both the release of dopamine and stress hormones in our brains.
  4. Screen stress pathway. Understand how the brain responds to stress here.
  5. Frontal cortex shuts down during stress
  6. Our bodies can get compromised, exhausted, and even sick over time because of the repeated stress from screens. 
  7. Chronic Stress. People with chronic stress are more prone to developing anxiety or depression. When we are anxious, stressed, or angry, the brain draws valuable energy away from the front part of our brain. Now the brain can’t perform at high or even normal capacity. This is why when stressed or scared, it’s difficult to take in and process new material, let alone think creatively. “Stress can alter plasticity in the nervous system, particularly in the limbic system” (Sapolsky, 2003).
  8. Suppressed emotions with high dopamine activities. 
  9. Screenstorn benefits
    • Stronger at sports
    • Less stress
    • More sleep
    • Fewer aches and pains
    • Healthier weight 
    • Fewer vision problems

 

Section 2: Does screen time really affect my body?

  1. Our brains don’t know the difference between cartoon violence and real violence; both damage our brains. 
  2. In fact, nearly half of the brain is in some way dedicated to vision.
  3. Violent media increases a person’s risk for aggression, regardless of whether it is realistic or fantasy-themed. There are theoretical reasons to believe that fantasy violence (e.g., cartoons, violence against aliens, violence with unrealistic consequences) may actually be worse than realistic violence.

 

Section 3: What does screen time have to do with sleep?

  1. The results of this study indicate that depression, anxiety, and sleep quality may be associated with smartphone overuse. Such overuse may lead to depression and/or anxiety, which can in turn result in sleep problems. University students with high depression and anxiety scores should be carefully monitored for smartphone addiction.
  2. Lights from backlit screens can delay and advance circadian timing causing asynchronization Study Here
  3. Associations between loss of sleep and electronic media exposure have been extensively reported in adolescents and adults. Study Here, Here, Here
  4. The alerting effects of night time use of electronics could be due to the suppression of melatonin by blue light exposure from the device in the retina, Here.
  5. Trouble Sleeping Excessive screen time can disrupt your sleep. You may stay up later interacting with your device. Your body releases a chemical called melatonin at night, in response to darkness. It helps your body fall asleep and stay asleep. Bright screen lights can reduce melatonin production, keeping you awake. Here.
  6. Sleep is especially important for teens. “Getting too little sleep can weaken your immune system, making you more likely to get sick. It can also affect your ability to concentrate, learn, and remember. While you sleep, your brain stores what it’s learned during the day. This makes it possible to recall information come test time.” Here.

Section 1: But don’t I need my screen for school?

  1. “Research reveals that some educational screen time is good for learning, but smartphones in the classroom are not. MEOW!” Is technology good or bad for learning?  Dividing attention in the classroom linked to lower exam performance
  2. “Our brains can only concentrate on one task at a time, regardless of how smart we are. We can learn to shift quickly between tasks, but we can only focus on one “thinking” task at a time.”
  3. Multitasking: Switching costs, Why multitasking does more harm than good
  4. “Multitasking leads to lower grades.” Make it our time: In class multitaskers have lower academic performance
  5. “Research also shows that students who have a phone nearby while taking a test get lower scores on average than those who are distraction-free.”  Brain Drain: The Mere Presence of One’s Own Smartphone Reduces Available Cognitive Capacity
  6. The fast pace of screen content is shortening the time it takes for our brains to get bored and seek out something new. You Now Have A Shorter Attention Span Than A Goldfish

 

Section 2: Is cheating always wrong?

 

Section 3: How can I get ahead in school?

    1. “Research suggests that some music can improve your mood and help you relax, but not all study music is created equal.”Music to reduce stress in hospitalized patients
    2.  In fact, music with lyrics activates the language-processing centers of your brain. This means that if you are trying to read new content while listening to the words of a song, your comprehension worsens.” Mind your music: The effects of music-induced mood and arousal across different memory tasks., Do you listen to music while studying? A portrait of how people use music to optimize their cognitive performance
    3. “Music with no lyrics is best.” The Influence of Background Music on Learning in the Light of Different Theoretical Perspectives and the Role of Working Memory Capacity
    4. “Part of the reason is that reading a book stimulates more senses.” Visual and Motor Cortices Differentially Support the Translation of Foreign Language Words
    5. “The physical activity of touching and turning the pages helps to keep us engaged in the content.” Incidental memory for location of information in text
    6. “When we turn the pages, we get a sense of where we are in the story. Doing this also gives us a sense of accomplishment as we make it through the book.” Incidental memory for location of information in text
    7. “Reading a book is easier on our eyes because the light is reflected off the page rather than directly into the retina. That is why we tend to scan a screen but read a book. Books are better for concentrating and recalling content from memory.” The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens
    8. “Writing on paper vs. typing is best for learning.” The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking

Section 1: How many friends should I have?

  1. “In general, relationships that are built on in-person interaction are much stronger and better for you.” Frequency of social contact in-person vs. on Facebook: An examination of associations with psychiatric symptoms in military veterans
  2. “Did you know that socializing with others is important to our mental health?”  What are the health benefits of being social?
  3. “Scientists have discovered that our inner circle—the people we are closest to—is limited to five relationships.” You Can Only Maintain So Many Close Friendships
  4. “Researchers say that it takes over 200 hours to transform an acquaintance, or someone we hardly know, into a close friend.” How many hours does it take to make a friend?
  5. “Believe it or not, research shows that teens who did not have access to smartphones and social media were happier than teens today.” Smartphones, social media use and youth mental health

 

Section 2: Oh no! What’s missing on my screen?

  1. “The more we learn to read feelings in person, the deeper our relationships will be. And, as a bonus, we will feel much less lonely!” and “A voice or video call is better than a text, but most of our social time online is spent texting and commenting.” Face-to-face more important than digital communication for mental health during the pandemic
  2. “Our brains are wired to read emotions best by seeing human faces.” Source of human empathy found in brain
  3. “It is hard to develop empathy with people we can’t see face-to-face.” How the brain detects the emotions of others

 

Section 3: How do I get and give more empathy?

  1. “Our brains know how important this is, so it has special neurons—mirror neurons—that allow us to feel what others are feeling and be in tune with their emotions. These neurons are activated when we are in the presence of others; they help us have empathy.” Source of human empathy found in mirror neurons
  2. “When you learn the art of empathy, you will have deeper friendships and feel more loved. The benefits of empathy go both ways!” How to Make Friends (and Keep Them) by Practicing Empathy, Want to feel more connected? Practice empathy

 

Section 4: Where do I go for help?

Section 1: How do screens hurt my feelings?

  1. Screen time can cause Mood Changes. Too much scrolling and texting may affect your emotional health. Scientists are still studying the link between screen time and mood. But some studies link higher levels of screen time to increased symptoms of depression. Many other factors also play a role in depression. Other studies have shown that excessive screen time may lead some teens to neglect responsibilities, use screens to deal with stress, and feel anxious without a device.” REF

 

Section 2: How can I be free from mental health pain?

  1. Belonging. The need for purpose, competency and belonging are critical human needs. Being connected to a community is also good for brain health. It is the foundation for important social, mental, and cognitive skills. It is necessary for life satisfaction as well as helping manage hard times. Research has shown that the loss of belonging, or loneliness, is associated with a shorter life expectancy, stress, illness, decreased well-being, and depression. “According to this meta-analysis co-authored by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University, lack of social connection heightens health risks as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or having alcohol use disorder. She’s also found that loneliness and social isolation are twice as harmful to physical and mental health as obesity.” quote here.

 

Section 3: What are other teens saying?