A series of studies and assessments of teenagers have recently been done to better understand the actions, behaviors, and directions of teenagers in our present day society.  The conclusions, though not surprising or mind-blowing, revealed some very interesting explanations and agreeable solutions.

It seems that the teen years always bring “crazy”, rebellious, and often hard-to-handle adolescents.  But why?  Studies and assessments of teenage brains are now showing that their irresponsible and questionable decisions and actions are not due to a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of experience in the “real world” for their increasingly earlier stages of development.  Teenage development, specifically puberty, is occurring earlier now than it did in earlier years.  So how is this affecting the actions, decisions, and behaviors of teens?

According to studies presented in this Wall Street Journal article “What’s Wrong with the Teenage Mind?”, when puberty arrives, emotion and motivation in teens hits an accelerator unmatched with the ability to steer and brake.  At this point, teens are driven immensely by social rewards of their peers.  This inhibits decision-making and disregards the notion of delayed gratification.  Ultimately, teens have knowledge of the risk and danger in the actions they involve themselves in, however they do not have the “practice” needed to control these risky behaviors.

In the past, adolescents and teenagers were taught, guided, and supervised at an early age to take on the jobs that they would take on once they reached puberty and the “real world”.  In other words, they gained vital experience of what to expect of the “real world” and how to function in it.  Today, that experience piece has been very much diminished and instead replaced with more school, books, and homework.  While this knowledge has raised IQ over the years, adolescents and teens lack direction and “real world” know-how vital to their success as adults.  Teens are sheltered longer while they obtain higher educations, when what they need is more experience of living in the real world.

The solutions to get teens back on track from their reckless and lost direction are simple enough.  Give them the “real world” experience they need, not just the books and work to increase their knowledge.  The article suggests arranging more opportunities for apprenticeship outside of school rather than the tedious homework.  “Take your child to work day” should be more than a once yearly event, but rather a routine practice, and college students could spend more time watching and helping professionals in their field rather than just listening to their lectures.

I could not agree more that gaining practice and experience is the best way to learn both about what you do want to do and what you don’t want to do.  I feel very privileged to be part of a graduate program that takes such a practical approach and firmly supports the notions of this article.