The Drug-Like Effect of Screen Time on the Teenage Brain


Teenagers today have never known a world without the internet, which may be why half of all adolescents say they’re addicted to their digital devices. In her new documentary “Screenagers,” Dr. Delaney Ruston explores why young people are so drawn to social media and video games and what effect it’s having on their brains. Ruston joins William Brangham to share what she’s learned.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, first, a new report looks at how digital devices are taking a toll on kids and families.

The report issued yesterday by Common Sense Media found half of all young people feel they are addicted to their devices. Almost 60 percent of adults think their kids are addicted too. And a third of parents and teens say that they argue daily about screen time.

Now a new documentary explores this topic and offers ideas about what families can do to navigate these waters.

William Brangham is back with our look.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The documentary is called “Screenagers,” and, in it, Dr. Delaney Ruston explores the complex relationship teenagers have with their screens, both the pleasures they take in sharing their lives online with their friends, as well as the darker side, those who lose control of their digital habits, and spiral into damaging behavior.

WOMAN: When I went to hug him, I could feel the bones in his back. And that was scary.

BRANGHAM: The film also looks at the latest research about the impact all this screen time has on the brains of young people.

SHERRY TURKLE, MIT: You have a brain that is wired for what in psychology is called seeking behavior, the kind of thing that a Google search gives you, something new, something stimulating, something different.

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