Many of us would like to think we know what our teen is doing. Even using the barometer of “I was a teenager once” may help us to better understand their behaviors and actions. But, still, … these are different times.
What our kids are up to may surprise us, even if we feel informed. Check out the Parent Quiz below. See the Answer Key afterwards to see how you ranked and for explanations and details.
1.) The Rational Part of the Brain Isn’t Fully Developed Until…
a) a person turns 18
b) a person turns around 25
c) a student gets a high score on the SATs
2.) Teenagers Drive More Recklessly When They Are…
a) with a parent
b) with a peerc) alone
3.) On the Subject of Marijuana…
a) Over 35% of high school students report having used it at least once
b) Over 100 deaths a year are attributed to marijuana overdose
c) It can have permanent effects on the developing brain, especially with heavy or regular use
4.) On the Subject of Alcohol…
a) By 18, around 60% of teens have had at least 1 drink
b) More adolescents use alcohol than cigarettes or marijuana
c) Over 5 million adolescents reported binge drinking at least once in the past month.
5.) On the Subject of Sex…
a) Over 40% of high school students have engaged in sexual relations
b) About 15% of teens having sex do not use condoms or birth control
c) Almost 10 million new STD cases reported each year are among youngsters between the ages of 15 to 24.
1.) The answer is b; the rational part of the brain (the prefrontal cortex) isn’t fully developed until people are in their mid-20s. Teens often respond to situations with the amygdala (the emotional, primitive part of the brain). It’s for this reason that teenagers can often be impulsive and seemingly act reckless. They don’t yet have the capability to respond with the best judgment. Often, they are unable to understand long-term consequences.
2.) Because the prefrontal cortex of the brain is not fully developed, a teenager does not have the “adult” capacity to self-regulate. Additionally, adolescents are greatly motivated by peer influence. A teenager is more likely to drive recklessly when he/she has another peer in the vehicle. They often engage in risky behavior because they do not want to feel excluded by their peers. (It’s emotionally based.) The answer is b.
3.) If you answered a and c, you are correct. The CDC reports that 38% of high schoolers have tried or use marijuana. And yes, abusing the drug can increase risk of negative effects on the developing brain. However, there are no reported deaths attributed directly to marijuana; it is almost impossible to overdose from it. (There have been reports where accidents have been cause by marijuana use, but in and of itself, it is not deadly.)
4.) All answers a, b, and c are correct. According to the National Institutes of Health, teenage alcohol use is rampant. Accidents are the number one cause of teenage death; alcohol and/or drugs are often a contributing factor to the unintentional deaths. (Binge drinking, by the way, entails 5 or more drinks for males and 4 or more for females within a few hours.)
5.) Again, if you guessed answers a, b, and c, you would be correct. The CDC conducted a Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance in 2015 amongst adolescents, teens, and young adults. The figures are staggering when it comes to the amount of unsafe sexual activity that is occurring. About half of all teens between the ages of 15 and 19 reported that they have participated in oral sex, most without protection from STDs.
While some of these questions and their respective answers do not come as a surprise to some parents, to others, it can be dumbfounding. We cannot be with our teenagers 24/7, nor do any of us want it that way. It’s for this reason that it’s essential you and your adolescent try and maintain an open line of communication.
Listening and trust will be the pillars of your ability to stay connected with your teen. As a parent, it’s our job to impart important information. How that is handled will define how your child receives it. You and your family’s position on the addressed topic will, no doubt, have certain rules or belief systems. Regardless, it will help to keep in mind that your teen’s brain may yet be incapable of self-monitoring, rationalizing, and emotional impulse control.
Information, care, guidance, and a mature perspective may be the optimal service we can offer to our teens to keep them safe and flourish into responsible, healthy adults. No one said raising teens was going to be easy!
Chein, J., Albert, D., O’Brien, L., Uckert, K., & Steinberg, L. (2011). Peers increase adolescent risk taking by enhancing activity in the brain’s reward circuitry. Developmental Science, 14, F1-F10.