Software Matters

CASA Teen Addiction Risk Graph

By SafeLaunch for Parent Click

It’s hard enough for schools to keep up with the exciting advances in technology. Parents, without resources and staff, hardly have a chance! Someone recently said, don’t fret over hardware. It’s the software that matters. That brings me to my point.

Our brains are our software, and research has shown that they change, modify, and get updated much longer than previously thought. Thanks to advances in technology, researchers can see and describe the neuroplasticity of our brains, which explains how our brains grow and change over time. During normal development our brains don’t develop to their full maturity until our mid- twenties.

As a parent of two great children who tested my brain every day, I became interested in cognitive development. I learned that young brains are not only great at learning and creating; they are also more susceptible to environmental damage. When our children are toddlers, we protect them from all kinds of harm. We buckle them into all kinds of conveyances, we make sure they wear helmets, knee, and elbow pads, we make them endure multiple life saving inoculations, and we do our best to provide the healthiest food for their growing bodies.

Parents go to great extremes to protect their small children, but aren’t quite sure how to protect them during their teen years. Our children’s access to technology hasn’t made this job any easier! When do you let them have more freedom, how much freedom, and under what circumstances? How do you define rights versus responsibilities? What is an appropriate curfew? The challenges and opportunities for growth, yours and theirs, are unending.
The most important thing I learned is that during adolescence, when our children’s bodies are growing taller and stronger than ours, their software… their brain… is still undeveloped. The brain develops from the back to the front, with the frontal lobe developing last. The frontal lobe controls most executive functions like planning, working memory, attention, problem solving, verbal reasoning, inhibition, mental flexibility, and more. During this very important growth phase, our brains are also more susceptible to becoming dependent on the substances that cause addiction, shockingly, up to 6 times more susceptible than a brain at maturity, which has about a 10% risk. To make matters worse, it is exactly during adolescence when the availability of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs is most prevalent and peer pressure is the strongest.

Most people don’t know about the latest in software development, but now you know the latest in brain research as it relates to addiction risk. The next time one of your friends says that they’ll chaperone your teen and their friends at a party, please remember this. Keeping teens from driving cars while intoxicated or riding in cars with impaired drivers is very important. It’s equally important to prevent intoxicants from reaching their developing brains. For all children, and especially if your family has a history of any kind of substance addiction, be vigilant. When it comes to the chronic, life-changing disease of addiction, all children are at risk, and it is the software that matters.