If you want a challenging and thought provoking book on addiction, computers, parenting, schooling, and screen time, then look no further than David Gillespie’s book, Teen Brain. I have just finished working my way through the audio version.
The book’s content has been extensively researched in regards to the role technology addiction is playing in adolescent brain development. Gillespie explains that the typical addictions and behaviours of the past – smoking, drinking, drug-taking, sex leading to teenage pregnancy – are on the decline. The bad news is that teenagers are now turning to electronic devices for the pleasure jolt that typically comes from playing online games (if you’re a boy) and engaging with social media (if you’re a girl).
I enjoyed the range of topics discussed within the book. Gillespie, an Australian lawyer, has an answer for screen addiction, underage drinking, smoking, drug addiction, unwanted pregnancies, anorexia, bulimia, anxiety, depression, suicide, anti-social behaviour, self-harm, teen socialising and teenage risk taking. Although I am sure the dictatorial nature of his solutions may be a little too far for most – myself included.
I think every teacher and school principal should read this book – especially chapter 10. Despite Gillespie spending a large part of the book taking aim at schools, principals and teachers, his arguments and research should be considered and not avoided.
Essentially, he argues that our education system is enabling teens to become addicted to harmful devices during the most formative time for their brains. While I don’t think educators would necessarily disagree with his points, it is another thing dealing with this and putting systems in place within their schools.
Below are a few quotes from the book to give you an idea of his ideas and main points.
“Screens are making your teenager depressed, anxious, and prone to lifelong addictive illnesses.“
“Addiction drives all adolescent behaviour.“
“Any addictive behaviour a child takes on during adolescence they will have for life.“
“Approval porn (social media), danger porn ( gaming) and normal porn is now available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to our adolescents.“
“Lock up the computer, phones and gaming consoles to restrict access.“
Finally, I love the term he uses for phones and computers ….”school mandated addiction devices.”
His overarching solution to all of this is the following of 5 rules. I will leave them here for you to ponder and discuss with your principal or teenager.
- Parents make rules and kids follow them – so be a parent and make some rules
- You should have rules to restrict all electronic devices.
- Rules should be clear.
- Breaches of rules should be punished.
- Teens need 8 hours sleep a night.
Is it school mandated addiction or society itself. Consumers drive the demand for the technology, and the manufacturers are just supplying the products. School is just one part of society, so it is unfair to single them out. Can we really blame “Big Tech” for pushing devices into school when it was us that demanded the technology in the first place?
I would say it is a bit of both. There has been a strong push from society for devices and as you say consumers drive the demand.
There has also been a push from within schools. Schools have been quick to jump on board free stuff (Google and Microsoft) because they have offered cheap, easy solutions. Would schools have pushed devices if they had to pay for the service themselves?
Perhaps the issue I have is that schools, in general, are not good at exploring the topics raised in this book. Few have offered real-world workable solutions for students and staff to using devices responsibly. This is equally true of households as well.
For me this book does a good job in identifying the issues but for me the solutions he offers are not practical.