Dr. Frances Jansen and Cheryl Beth Kuchler

I am incredibly grateful to Dr. Frances Jensen from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine for sharing her wisdom and expertise about the Teenage and Young Adult brain with our CEO Think Tank ® community of Enlightened Leaders.

We heard fascinating insights about the effect of Social Media (it’s an evolving experiment folks), alcohol and drugs (including Cannabis) and the developmental phases that are SO impacted by these outside influences. PLUS how to navigate this time as parents and managers.

Here’s 8 of my key takeaways for you to ponder, along with a few recommended resources to check out from Dr. Jensen. 

  1. The most changeable organ in our body is the brain. Neuroplasticity is at its height from the ages of 12 or 13 to 25 or 26. Boys are about two years behind girls in development.
  2. Drugs, nicotine and alcohol have profound impacts on the brain during this developmental period affecting our ability to learn, memorize facts and our susceptibility to addictions. Vaping because of the abundance of nicotine is highly addictive. And  even more so in a teenage brain which is significantly more susceptible to developing addictions. Cannabis stays in the brain of teens and young adults up to 4 to 5 days (twice as long as adults). Plus, studies have shown extended cannabis use can have a significant impact on cognitive performance and IQ.
  3. As parents and managers, we can support the “still developing” Executive Functioning in teens and young adults. Do scenario planning of situations with them ahead of time. Focus on situations that could result in negative consequences such as not getting into a car with a drunk driver. Help them think through options instead.
  4. Social media, because of the highly socially driven nature of their brains, helped teens and young adults during the pandemic by keeping them connected and helping overcome social isolation. It also “feels” very good to the developing brain. BUT excessive social media images and messaging often harm them.  Limiting social media is highly recommended.
  5. The majority of teens use YouTube and TikTok every day. One in five teens are almost constantly on YouTube.
  6. Social media is HIGHLY addictive for teen and young adult brains and has been shown to be anxiety producing.
  7. The teen brain is still “under construction” and therefore is highly susceptible to outside influences. A huge number of connections are being formed that set the stage for the rest of our lives. Their developing brain is wired to learn and absorb, good things as well as bad. This makes them uniquely vulnerable.
  8. Impulse control is not fully developed in the teenage brain. Young adults and teens are highly prone to “excitation”.  They look for risk activities to “experience” which can lead to putting themselves in danger. Again, awareness and scenario planning ahead of time can help.


Check out her book to learn more, “The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults”.


And reach out to learn more about our Guest Thought Leaders and our Community of Enlightened Leaders!


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