Doc Talk #143 – Teen Health

We started off this week’s show with a brief lesson in neuroanatomy! The teenage brain is wired to seek novelty, but the prefrontal lobes are not fully developed which can lead to challenges with impulse control (which can explain some of the risk-taking behaviour we see in adolescents).

The teenage brain is also highly plastic, which means that it is easy for lifelong habits to be formed. This means they are more prone to developing addictions, including tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. You can find out more about alcohol and drug use in teens here.

One of the commonest causes of death and injury in teenagers is accidents, including traffic accidents. There is some great information about reducing risks for all kinds of accidents in teenagers here.

In a world where everyone is connected, paying attention to online and internet safety is important. You can find information at the GetCyberSafe website and ProtectKidsOnline.

We also touched on confidentiality and the “mature minor” concept. In general teenagers are entitled to confidentiality and parents don’t have an automatic right to know the discussions they have had with their doctor, or other healthcare professionals.

Worried about your teenager’s weight or eating habits? Some information from the Dieticians Canada website is available here.

Sun protection is really important. Sunburn at a young age has been linked with an increased risk of certain skin cancers, including melanoma.

Bullying can be a big problem for teenagers. We like the DareToCare website which has some useful resources.

Crucial to all of these issues is having a strong relationship with your teenager. It starts with a conversation, and if you as a parent are not having conversations with them, someone else probably is, and the advice they are getting may not be the best.

Image by Basile Morin – CC BY-SA 4.0 (