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Here’s what teens think

600 attend panel’s special presentation

Posted: September 25, 2008 9:37 p.m.
Updated: November 27, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Tina Bryson speaks at the eighth annual Teen Scene event held at the Hyatt Wednesday night. Parenting/Understanding the Teen Brain was the focus of the night with Tina Bryson as the guest speaker.

 

“What are teenagers thinking!?”

Hundreds of plagued parents packed the Hyatt Valencia seeking the answer to that question Wednesday.

Tina Bryson told a crowd of more than 600 to consider the biological changes teens experience and start asking the question: “What’s going on in their brains?”

The city-sponsored Blue Ribbon Task Force sponsored the annual Teen Scene Unplugged event that aims to help parents and teens better understand each other.

Bryson, who specializes in interpersonal neurobiology, said common issues among teens — like moodiness, risk-taking and even sleeping too much — all have to do with rapid changes in the brain through the teen years.

The brain’s middle prefrontal cortex responsible for decision making, controlling emotions, intuition and morality, changes rapidly during the teens years, she said.

“This part of the brain is under heavy construction and because of that it can easily go off line,” she said.

Because of this, teens often aren’t able to answer the “What were you thinking?” question, she said. “It’s why smart kids do dumb things,” she said.

But not everything can be blamed on the brain. Genetics and experience shape the brain equally, she said.

Parents can be the external force that helps keep teens’ brains in check, she said. If teens know there are serious consequences for serious behavior, they’ll think differently, she said.

She also said what happens during the teen years shapes the growing brain for adulthood. Drugs, alcohol and even a teen’s activities have permanent effects on the brain, she said.

“Sleeping is actually an important way for your teenager to spend time,” she said, adding that teens need nine and a half hours of sleep per night.

Relationships with their friends are key for a teen’s brain development, she said.

“The brain changes throughout the lifespan,” she said. “It is constantly being molded through experience.”

Understanding teen behavior is also about opening the lines of communication, said Santa Clarita City Councilman Frank Ferry, who is also the principal of Bishop Alemany High School in Mission Hills.

“Tonight’s about beginning those conversations with your sons and daughters,” he said.

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