It’s no secret that teenagers are predisposed to risky behaviors—and not just those who’ve never dreamed of making the honor roll. However, this tendency has nothing to do with I.Q. and everything to do with their developmental stage. Reckless activities can do more than prompt parents to shake their heads: Dangerous games have claimed thousands of young lives.
Most teens who engage in foolhardy behaviors can’t blame lack of education or knowledge regarding the risks they’re taking. Even with the overwhelming amount of warnings they’ve no doubt heard, eight teens die in drunk driving accidents every single day. Nearly the same number die of drug overdoses and alcohol poisoning.
According neurology professors Jensen and Urion, findings of the past decade have revealed that adolescents’ brains have both rapidly growing synapses and unconnected sections. These physiological realities lead to higher chances of environmental impact as well as impulsive behaviors—and that’s without even considering hormonal surges and genetic tendencies. An adolescent’s brain is actually only 80% of its full-grown size. The frontal lobe is the last to mature, and its lateness is significant, since that part of the brain regulates thinking skills such as advanced planning, good judgment, and logical reasoning. Those processes aren’t completely in play until between the ages of 25 and 30.
Urion believes that these findings should be used to prompt educational initiatives geared toward training teens to strategically make decisions rather than simply telling them not to participate in certain behaviors. Perhaps employing his idea would help prevent more than typical reckless practices, such as drinking and doing drugs. While those behaviors are of major concern, so are some less popular practices. Popularity is often the issue at hand, though, as adolescents often crave attention and approval of their friends.
The choking game is one of those trending new ways teens are finding to put their lives at risk. Although almost half of teens believe that this game involves no risk, it caused more than 50 serious injuries and deaths in 2010 alone. Basically, this activity involves intentionally depriving the brain of the oxygen it needs, creating an erotic high. A shocking 75% of teens are at least familiar with this practice, and youths are experimenting with intentional choking as early as eighth grade.
Texting while driving is no longer a closet practice. Having claimed 6,000 lives in 2011, this practice is extremely common among teens. A less common vehicle-related trends include car surfing, or riding atop a moving car, and skitching, or skateboarding behind large vehicles. Car surfing claimed almost 60 lives last year.
Perhaps if the neurology professors’ findings make their way into classrooms and other educational venues, more teens will live to roll their eyes at their own children’s harmless adolescent antics.