“Pull Yourself Up by the Bootstraps”

In this Op-Ed, Friedman makes the argument that both parents, and the media, are overreacting to their teens’ self-reported anxiety levels. Friedman also disagrees that modern technology is influencing alleged increasing levels of anxiety in today’s teens. While he makes a compelling case against studies attempting to explain how technology affects anxiety in teens, we must also consider that this too is an opinion piece. Even if Friedman is correct in that teens’ clinical anxiety levels are not rising, his “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” view of the world is deeply troubling, and will only exacerbate the stigma against those who suffer from anxiety and other mental illnesses.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s (NAMI) statistical survey in 2016, 8% of youth have an anxiety disorder. Whether that percentage has increased or not with the current generation, those youth that are currently suffering are nonetheless subject to assumptions and stigmas surrounding their anxiety. Much like Friedman said, it is easy to feel that those with anxiety are simply overreacting to “normal” stressors. In my opinion, if an adolescent feels anxious enough to bring it up to a parent, knowing they will be faced with the stigma of mental illness, it is incredibly important to take them seriously and treat them as you would any other medical patient. When a patient comes in complaining of a headache, you ask them to rate their pain on a scale of 1-10. This self-reported number is subjective, just like the anxiety levels of a teen, but even if you doubt that their headache merits a “6,” you still treat them for their pain. Why should it be any different for those struggling with anxiety?

In another New York Times article by Friedman, “Why Teenagers Act Crazy” discusses how the early development of teenagers’ amygdalae, and the delayed development of the prefrontal cortex make teens especially susceptible to anxiety. He explains that while most adults have developed coping mechanisms for their day-to-day anxieties, teens are left practically defenseless. Therefore, having an adult like Friedman minimize teen anxiety to a “challenge of modern life” is not only condescending but incredibly problematic. We need to truly listen and believe teenagers, and allow them to express their emotions out loud without feeling like they are simply overreacting. In NAMI’s same statistical survey, it was reported that suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in those aged 10-24, and that 90% of those who died by suicide had a mental illness. Taking teenagers’ emotions seriously is not only important, but could be life or death.

Friedman, Richard A. “Opinion | Why Teenagers Act Crazy.” The New York Times, June 28, 2014, sec. Opinion. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/29/opinion/sunday/why-teenagers-act-crazy.html.

“Mental Health By the Numbers | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness.” Accessed October 30, 2018. https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers.

Friedman, Richard A. “Opinion | The Big Myth About Teenage Anxiety.” The New York Times, September 7, 2018, sec. Opinion. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/07/opinion/sunday/teenager-anxiety-phones-social-media.html.


Isabella Comments on Nicholas’ Post

Nicholas did an excellent job demonstrating how he personally relates to the topics discussed in the article “The Big Myth About Teenage Anxiety”. His comment on his addiction towards video games and how his mother went along with the rumor discussed in the article allows the reader of his post to see how teenagers can easily relate to this modern-day myth. Nicholas’ writing is very straight forward and concise, and it is evident that he understands the concepts being presented in the article because he manages to re-phrase the article in his own words. The blog post also shows how he did his own research about the author as he comments on his work at Cornell Medical College and uses that information to conclude that the article is reliable as the author is a valid source of information. The thesis of his blog post was directly targeted to the article and supported by the evidence provided. Overall, Nicholas did a very good job and really captured the attention of his audience by including such a relevant anecdote to open his discussion up about the main points of the article.  

The Big Bad Myth About Adolescent Anxiety

With a high-pitched ping my phone screen lights up and I immediately look to see where my notification is from despite being in the middle of a conversation with a group of friends. My heart sinks into my stomach as I read “BIOL 141: Exam 1 Grade Posted”. Immediately fears of failure and “what ifs” flood my brain as I think about the impact this test grade has on my life. Images of my disappointed parents looking down at me and my career goals going up in flames flash before my eyes as I look down at the irritatingly bright screen which in the moment seems to hold all the answers to my future. With trembling hands I slowly unlock my phone and navigate to the Canvas site. Only when I finally see my grade and let out a sigh of relief do I realize that I had been holding my breath the whole time.

In this digital age it often seems as if our personal technologies are an extension of our very being. While the benefits of technology are great, the ways in which this advancement has changed our very realities are not all positive and can often lead to heightened feelings of doubt and uneasiness. However, despite the increased atmosphere of apprehension that technology creates, from a pathological standpoint, this new media age does not directly cause anxiety disorders in adolescents.

In the article “The Big Myth About Teenage Anxiety” by Dr. Richard Friedman this topic of an increase in self-diagnosed anxiety disorder is further explored in order to prove that there is no causation between new technologies and adolescent anxiety. Dr. Friedman uses a scientific basis to combat this incorrect conspiracy theory that is a direct result of parents’ fear of uncertainty.  Friedman states that “Some studies report an association between increased time spent on electronic communication and screens and lower levels of psychological well-being. The problem is that they show only correlation”. This quote helps support my point that while teenagers might be under more stress and therefore experience heightened feelings of anxieties in this modern world there is no evidence to prove that there is a direct link between technologies and anxiety. Many factors other than technology contribute to teenagers self-reporting feeling stressed including a greater pressure coming from changed societal norms and a post-Recession economy in which it is harder than ever before to find adequate jobs (Friedman). Therefore, while more technological advancements might be present in this age they are not the actual cause of anxiety disorders and depression.

This article can be considered credible because it was published in the New York Times which is a reputable newspaper. Furthermore this article provides the author’s name and credentials allowing readers to see that Friedman has a doctorate and is a licensed psychiatrist. It is important to note that this article includes many references to actual scientific studies and data which increase its credibility. “The Big Myth About Teenage Anxiety” was clearly written for an audience of worried parents who might not specialize in the neuroscience field and are unfamiliar with the topic. The fact that this article is an opinion piece slightly decreases its credibility because it is clear that it is not written objectively and includes its own biases.

Friedman, Richard A. “The Big Myth About Teenage Anxiety.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 7 Sept. 2018.


The Overestimation of Anxiety Problems

The article comes up with a few interesting suggestions as to why there seems to be increased rates of anxiety, including  increased use of technology and a general increase in everyday stressors.  The article points out that there are very few dependable studies on increased anxiety and the effect of technology on anxiety. Given the information in this article I am of the opinion that rates of actual anxiety disorders are not likely dramatically increasing, but that society is generally placing more stressors upon adolescents that cause normal anxiety, and that these anxieties are not worsened by phones/technology.

I am inclined to agree with the author, given that though the article itself does not include many concrete statistics nor does it go into detail on the studies it references, it links each reference to the original source,  which lends the article credibility. Each reference is pulled from credible sources, which makes me confident in pulling information from this article.

With regards to anxiety disorders, I do not believe that increased technology use has a causal relationship with an increase in anxiety. The article mentions a study in which “17 teenagers with online gaming “addiction” had microstructural changes in various brain regions compared with a control group” (Friedman, 2018). However, these microstructural changes could be caused by other factors, and more importantly the sample group for this study is far too small to be able to establish a causal relationship between exposure to technology like video games and increased anxiety disorders. In statistical studies, a study sample should be no less than 30 individuals to be able to do reliable statistical testing on experimental data. Furthermore, the author points out that our brains are not a susceptible to negative influence from technology as is sometimes assumed, asserting that “even when we are young and impressionable, our brains have molecular and structural brakes that control the degree to which they can be rewired by experience” (Friedman, 2018), indicating that the connection between anxiety and technology is exaggerated.

I also agree with the author’s assertion that the perceived increase in anxiety disorders “reflects a cultural shift toward pathologizing everyday levels of distress” (Friedman, 2018). As explained in the article, there is little evidence that there is a mass increase in true anxiety disorders. I have often seen individuals worry that they have an anxiety disorder only to discover that their anxiety does not qualify as a diagnosable issue. However, I think that society is placing increased pressure on adolescents, as mentioned in the article with college stress, and that these increased pressures can cause more “normal” anxiety to occur, convincing some that they have a disorder. Although these may not be true anxiety disorders, the anxieties caused by social and academic pressure should be taken seriously and should not be ignored even if it is not a full-on anxiety disorder.

Works Cited:

Friedman, R. A. (2018, September 07). The Big Myth About Teenage Anxiety. Retrieved October 26, 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/07/opinion/sunday/teenager-anxiety-phones-social-media.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage




The Digital Myth That Fooled Parents

As someone who grew up with video games, my mother constantly was in a state of worry of whether I would be able to succeed in school and life because of my obsession with Pokemon as a child, and League of Legends as I grew older. I continued with my video games as a hobby into high school as my mother’s worry that I would never get into college grew exponentially.  Fortunately, I got accepted into Emory, but her dismay over my hobby continued, with her constantly reminding me focus on my studies. I would always argue back, saying its not that bad, but she would always try to justify it with saying it would destroy my brain. This statement she said is just ridiculous in my opinion, and the article by Dr. Richard A. Friedman supports it.

I believe that the onset of digital technology does not impact an adolescent’s brain development, and Dr. Friedman’s article “The Big Myth About Teenage Anxiety”, supports it. Dr. Friedman states that while there is a correlation between increased use of technology and decreased psychological well being, there is no causation. It is quite possible that the decreased psychological well being could lead to an increased use of technology. Also, there is almost no evidence that shows that technology is as addictive as drugs, further supporting the fact that use of this technology is not as harmful as one would think. At most, small microstructural changes happen in the brain compared to others. So, there is no strong evidence that leads to the conclusion that technology use is a cause for the increase in teen anxiety in this age.

The article “The Big Myth About Teenage Anxiety” by Dr. Richard A. Friedman is a recently published news article in the New York Times, and focuses on how the use of technology does not really impact an adolescent’s brain development. It was written mainly to inform the public, especially parents, about the rumors about the use of technology and anxiety as he provides studies and surveys that show that technology use are not the causes of anxiety or poor brain development. Dr. Friedman is a professor in clinical psychiatry at the Cornell Medical College,  and has had cases with parents worrying that their child’s anxiety due to technology use, which allows him to write with very good background information about this subject matter. Overall, this article is a good source of information and evidence about the misconceptions about technology use and teen anxiety.

Isabella Embellishing on “The Juul is Too Cool”

Based on previous research because of personal interest, I was already exposed to information that agrees with the New York Times article “The Juul is Too Cool”. An article by the American Cancer Society has also provided new information on the dangers of juul. The ACS coincides with the NYT article that the most dangerous part of having a juul is that the flavors appeal to younger audiences, such as teenagers. The ACS argues in their article that the FDA is not doing enough to inform teens about the dangers of using a juul – two examples being not providing enough public information about it, or not placing a nicotine warning on the packaging until recently. The ACS also researched into the components of the juul liquid and found that it has an extensive amount of nicotine in it. What teens don’t realize is that nicotine is an addictive drug that can harm the development of the brain. As teenagers’ brains develop until the age of approximately 25, the popularity of the juul amongst teens is dangerous because an excessive number of teens are consuming a lot of nicotine and aren’t aware of the negative side effects that it has on your brain’s development. From personal experience, I don’t think the juul epidemic is going away any time soon, therefore we must educate the public about its dangers to reduce the amount of potential damage that can be done to the development of the brain from consuming nicotine. 

Citation : 

Simon, Stacy. “JUUL E-Cigarettes and Youth: What You Need to Know.” American Cancer Society, American Cancer Society, www.cancer.org/latest-news/juul-e-cigarettes-and-youth-what-you-need-to-know.html. 


Is it really okay to Juul?

Late at night, heading back to campus after hanging out in downtown Atlanta, my friends and I encountered a “food truck” crowded with seemingly young students. The vehicle was decorated with colorful designs that read ‘strawberry’, ‘mint’, and ‘grapes’. At first, I had no doubt that they were selling some tasty desserts. However, with a closer look, I realized that they were flavors of Juul, a brand of e-cigarettes that is popular among adolescents. Both the person selling Juuls at the truck and the young teenagers in line for those Juuls seemed to be very excited. The question here is, are they okay to be just excited?

Of course they are not. E-cigarettes mimic the taste of real cigarettes, and there is a social perception that they are much less harmful to your body than the real ones. However, Jason Daley from Smithsonian News informs us that, “besides leading to a nicotine addiction, vaping may be exposing teens to chemicals linked to cancer”. Also, nicotine levels in e-cigs can be higher than in traditional tobacco products and can make users more likely to use the real thing, a study from National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found.  Underage vaping should be strictly prohibited for this reason. Like other drugs such as marijuana or alcohol, nicotine has a different impact on a developing brain than on the brain of an adult. The prefrontal cortex is often at increased risk in teens who use substances because it doesn’t finish developing until around age 25. Brain imaging studies of adolescents suggest that those who begin smoking regularly at a young age have markedly reduced activity in the PFC and perform less well on tasks related to memory and attention compared to non-smokers.

There exists a serious problem for the ‘Juul syndrome’. Adolescents tend to be very sensitive to social media, and the fact that Juul has a strong presence on social media such as Instagram highly contributes to underage vaping. In addition, e-cigarettes are highly accessible to adolescents, which makes them much more exposed to nicotine than they already are. Therefore, an intervention of the government or a stronger authority is necessary. A good news is that the FDA recently stepped in to make an effort in reducing underage vaping. It is sending warning letters to retailers that were caught selling the products to underage customers during an undercover enforcement blitz that took place over the summer.

The original article, The Juul is Too Cool from New York Times and the quoted article FDA Cracks Down on Underage Use of E-Cigarettes from Smithsonian,, are both reliable sources. Appropriate evidence is cited, and the articles are convincing and engaging to the readers.



The Juul is so Uncool

The Juul Is Too Cool, written by Amos Barshad for the New York Times may be able to bring the public’s attention to the serious problem that is underage juuling. Barshad collected information directly from the source, teens. Gathering the date in this way gave the article a lot of credibility and made it engaging. It brought to light the fact that the juuling epidemic is very widespread in middle schools and high schools. I can think of several friends off the top of my head from both high school and college who regularly juul and could be considered addicts. I think juuling is foolish and that later more information will come out saying that juuling has a ton of negative health effects. Just as many believe juuling to be okay, many used to believe that cigarettes were okay, even healthy for you. It was later proven that cigarettes can lead to cancer, stroke, heart disease, and death. I think similar discoveries about juuling will be made. An article written in the National Center for Health Research called The Dangers of Juuling, notes that researchers have already found evidence that juuling can impair brain and lung development if used during adolescence. It also found that juuling in early adolescence can lead to more drug use and impulsivity later in life. Based on these discoveries, it is likely that juuling damages and inhibits the development of extremely important parts of the brain. This article used a variety of data from many credible sources such as the CDC and FDA. The fact that juuling is so popular among teenagers is not surprising. During adolescence, the prefrontal cortex, which regulates decision making and judgment is not fully developed. This is demonstrated by the image below. Teens tend to rely on the fully developed amygdala, which regulates emotions and impulses, to make decisions. This can explain why teenagers are more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as juuling. Though the author of the initial article jokes that to stop adolescent juuling adults should start doing it, it is actually vital to find a way to get kids to stop using them. Juul manufacturers made juuls for adults and I think they should start being used by only adults. Juuling has become too socially acceptable for adolescents because it is easy for them to forget how much nicotine they are really consuming. I think if kids are reminded of the real danger juuling puts them in, then rates of it will go down.

To Juul or Not To Juul?

In this article, the author discusses the effects of the Juul epidemic on the young people in the generation. Throughout the article, the author describes how the trend came to be, reasons that it has interested young people, and how the Juul culture spread among young people. I personally think that the this article does a great job of taking this controversial wave of teenage experimentation without sounding judgmental or inserting their own personal views on the topic. It presents the straight facts with relevant information that allows this to be an interesting yet insightful read for college students. The author, Amos Barshad, writes in a first narrative point of view in which he reminisces on his generation’s form of “hitting a Juul”, conducts interviews with actual young people, and includes side commentary to continue the flow of the information. Another way the article becomes more applicable to college students is by the use of language and cultural references. For example, the use of viral tweets helped the author aid the idea of the vast extent that Juuls have appeared in our generation; also, the use of references of meme culture and fidget spinners allows the author to appear more relatable rather than an “out of touch” scientist or professor. This article also appears to be trustworthy due to  the fact it is from New York Times, and it links to other information that is used as well. However, I would argue that although the article is informative and trustworthy, it is not scientific for multiple reasons. For example, although it is an article on New York Times, it is located on the style section of the website. In my opinion, I think Juul culture is unnecessary because it is exposing young people to a nicotine addiction in a new form. Granted it is a cigarette without the toxins and just the addiction, I think the creation of the Juul has definitely distracted from it’s original useful purpose. However, unlike most people, I don’t really care because it is not my body, so it is not my business. Overall, I think the author did an excellent job transforming this information into information that is easily understandable and interesting to its readers especially the generation it affects.

How do our parents influence our taste in music?

My greatest limitation, in my opinion, is my love for country music. When trying to find a roommate here at Emory, post after post on the Emory Facebook page would say something to the effect of “country music makes my ears bleed.” Born in Texas, but by no means a southerner, I was curious as to why I seemed to be the only adolescent who truly enjoyed country music. After reading the Verge article, I wondered if something other than age drives our music preferences. “Intergenerational Continuity of Taste: Parental and Adolescent Music Preferences” by Tom F.M. ter Bogt sought to explore if our parents’ music tastes when they were adolescents influenced their own children’s music taste. This correlational study did find significant results that suggested parental music preference did influence their children’s music preference, however, causation cannot be inferred from this study. If your parents preferred pop music, it is likely, according to this study, that you prefer pop and dance music. If your parents preferred rock music, it is likely that you would also like rock music, but only if you are female. These subtle nuances demonstrate the malleability of adolescent brains and how upbringing, and other social factors such as education effects even the most mundane things like our music preference.

Ter Bogt, T., Delsing, M., Van Zalk, M., Christenson, P., & Meeus, W. (2011). Intergenerational Continuity of Taste: Parental and Adolescent Music Preferences. Social Forces, 90(1), 297-319. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/41682642