Understanding teens, and sorting myth from reality, is a challenge for both adults and teens themselves. So check out this quiz and update your knowledge on the latest findings.
1. Which of the following is not true:
The adolescent brain leads teens to:
- Seek out the good in life
- Feel things passionately
- Seek novelty
- Process information rapidly
- Need their parents less and be less affected by parents’ disapproval
- All of the above
Though teens have gotten a bad rap, the adolescent brain has enviable features that give them unique potential for optimism, vitality, innovation, and positive change. Peers may seem to be all that matters to them and are, in fact, a key ingredient in helping teens forge their own identity. But, in spite of appearances to the contrary, adolescents still need their parents’ availability, guidance, and support, delivered in a way that respects teens’ opinions and autonomy. The challenge for parents is to tolerate, and not take it personally, when teens pull away, and refrain from withdrawing in retaliation in the guise of giving them space.
2. True or false: Adolescents feel more intense temptation than other ages, which makes it harder for them to say no to alluring things.
Adolescents experience overwhelming temptations and cravings for excitement. The depletion of dopamine in parts of the teen brain makes them easily bored and ready to rev up. On top of this, the reward centers in the adolescent brain are more active and easily stimulated, leading to a more intense and irresistible rush when they get excited. When things feel good in adolescence, they feel better than at any other time in life. This biochemistry is adaptive in that it pushes adolescents out of the comfort of the nest — driving them to seek out new experiences and learn the coping skills they will need as adults.
3. Adolescents are vulnerable to acting on their impulses:
- when they are being watched by peers (including via text, photos, social media)
- when they are with, or anticipating being with, peers
- when they are excited
- all of the above
Under highly charged conditions for teens, the reward circuits in the teenage brain light up, and the pressure to act on temptation can be overwhelming. In these situations of high arousal, information processing is slowed, and impulse control deactivated. It is important to consider the context teens will be in when giving freedoms. For example, because anticipating being with peers, and being with peers, changes brain chemistry and disables executive functions, teens are more at risk in these situations. Under conditions of low arousal and with time to think things through, however, teens have the ability act intelligently and use good judgment and common sense.
Answer: D. All of the above
4. Which of the following is true:
- Adolescents are highly receptive to learning and interesting challenges.
- Adolescents are too self-absorbed to be able to care about learning.
- Adolescents have the same ability to learn as people of other ages.
The teen brain bestows a unique opportunity for kids to practice and imprint the values and skills you want them to have later in life since, like the period from birth to age 5, adolescence is a critical period of brain development. Though new skills can be learned at any age, they can be learned permanently and with less effort during these critical periods. (Exception: kids who have ADHD/executive function deficits, for whom learning is typically frustrating and extremely effortful.)
In adolescence, brain structures become specialized and develop in a “use it or lose it” manner, hardwiring new skills and templates. Unfortunately, adolescents surveyed across the country unanimously chose the adjectives: “stressed, bored, tired” to describe how they feel 75 to 80 percent of the time at school. This finding suggests that schools are failing to engage teens in learning, squandering a decisive window of opportunity.