Think back on your teen years. Did you ever do something then that you would think twice about now? Skip curfew? Or maybe something more serious, like getting in the car with a drunk driver? Chances are the answer is yes.
Adolescence is a time for risk taking. For better or worse it’s how teens learn and also how they get hurt. The Department of Health and Human Services explains that car crashes, drugs and alcohol, and unsafe sexual behaviors are among the top three behaviors (all risky behaviors) contributing to the causes of death and illness for this age group. What’s more is that the mortality rate for this age group is triple that of their younger peers.
We often believe that this affinity for risk is because teens like the thrill of engaging in a potentially dangerous behavior and that the risk involved is part of the reason the action is so appealing. However, the LA Times recently reported on a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggesting that adolescents may actually be more risk-averse than adults.
The study by Tymula et al. found that adolescents were more averse to clearly stated risks than their older peers but have a higher tolerance for the unknown.
This would mean that teens don’t always intentionally seek out risk for the thrill but rather they’re just more open to exploring behaviors that have uncertain consequences.
According to this finding, to limit teens engagement in risky behaviors, we should, in part, be teaching teens about the risks, costs, and benefits associated with these unexperienced behaviors.
Have you seen any noteworthy examples of this in recent communication campaigns for the teen audience?