A recent video making it’s rounds in social media this week is the one in which three young, teen, girls are shown to disregard all common sense and not only talk to strangers on line, they also agree to meet the strangers in person. Luckily, the outcome was that it was only an experiment, which the parents are in on, which showed that many teens still disregard warnings and sometimes common sense to meet with total strangers. Why? Because even though they are told over and over again, by parents, teachers and every other adult in their lives, they feel they are smart enough not to get “duped” or think “it won’t happen to me”.
Ok, that’s the short answer. And for those parents out there that feel their child is “too smart” or “wouldn’t do this” think again. Why? Why would after all these years, a generation who was brought up with internet, social media, and high tech technology, still disregard the warnings and meet with a perfect stranger? Because they are kids.
Think back to when your child was younger. You thought they were so smart. They were. Their brains were learning and picking up things at a faster rate than they ever will again. Then they get to the teen years and now it seems that most common sense (at least to parents and teachers) just flies out the window. Why is this? Well, to start with, at a young age the brain is forming, growing, and learning. During adolescents their brains are learning through experience and are now forming their own opinions and thoughts about the world around them. Their brains are beginning to mature. Now throw hormones and emotions in with that adolescent brain. Then throw in the normal development of trying to fit in socially with peers and friends. All normal. Scary, but normal.
Now some science. The prefrontal cortex, that part of the brain which regulates attention, emotions, impulses, and problem solving skills (to name a few), is the last part of the human brain to fully develop. In childhood, memory and attention started to develop. Basically, everything thing else starts developing during adolescent and into early adulthood. So your teen, through normal growth and development, is only now starting to develop their abilities to inhibit impulse, reason and to solve complex problems. The problem with this is that they now think they have all the answers. Is that a flaw in their personalities? No. Again, it’s normal development. So now they think they have all the answers but in reality that part of their brain which will help them to make accurate and rationalized decisions is not developed yet. A lot of times their thoughts are simply inaccurate in predicting what will happen as a result of their decisions.
Teens are well known for making bad decisions or thinking the rules don’t apply to them. Because of this undeveloped prefrontal cortex, they are not able to make totally sound and reasonable decisions. Sure, there are a few adolescents which did develop a bit early, and did develop more accurate decision making skills earlier in life. But for the rest, it’s biology.
So what’s the answer? Parents and teachers need to remember that they are teens, and that they do still need continual guidance. It’s because they are not adults, and have not developed the thought processes which an adult has. Many teens, if not most, will need guidance up until their early twenty’s (some longer). So when your showing your young teen that video that’s now going around, more than likely your child is saying (or at least thinking to themselves) “I’m smarter than that”! Just remember, they really aren’t. Keep telling them of the dangers out there in the world, but don’t harp. Use opportunities you see in the media to help teach and develop their minds.