In Go Ahead, I Dare You, Newsweek columnist Wray Herbert comments on the curious findings of a study published in the journal Psychological Science for the Public Interest. Its query? Why teenagers do stupid things.
In order to explore really stupid behavior, [social scientists] have asked what seem to be really stupid questions: Is it a good thing to set your hair on fire? Drink Drano? Go swimming where sharks swim?
The results are fascinating, and unsettling. While teenagers are just as likely as adults to get the answer right (the correct answer is “No”), teens actually have to mull the question over momentarily before they answer.
Unlike prevailing assumptions about why young people engage in risky behavior, the research seems to argue that it is not because teenagers feel invulnerable or underestimate the risks, but because they have misplaced priorities.
[The authors’ findings] demonstrate that if anything teenagers overestimate the risks of such things as drunk driving and unprotected sex. They just do them anyway. Why? Because they have weighed the risks and weighed the benefits and made a cold calculation that the benefits outweigh the risks. That benefit may be immediate pleasure, as with drugs and sugary foods, or the emotional connectedness that comes with fitting in.
In other words, teens aren’t necessarily being irrational when they do dumb things, they just tend to have a short-term outlook on life and an immature hierarchy of values. It’s not just a brain thing, it’s a heart thing, because your actions reveal who and what you’re living for.
Another interesting aspect of the study is its recommendation against giving teenagers more information or more detailed information about the dangers of risk-filled activities, arguing that more education is not likely to result in any significant decrease of risky behavior.
Indeed, such interventions could backfire, since most adolescents already overestimate perils of risky behavior. So, for example, trying to teach teenagers to “drink responsibly” is probably an unwise strategy, since it plays right into their immature habit of overthinking everything. It would make more sense, in light of the new research, to enforce drinking ages and restrict teenage driving and otherwise eliminate opportunities for risk.
Over at the ever-prolific blog Boundless Line, contributor Suzanne Hadley agrees:
Perhaps we give teens too much responsibility by providing them with so much information about risky behaviors — such as drug use, sex and alcohol — and expecting them to make wise decisions. The better option would be to keep them out of high-risk situations altogether. Adults need to provide more actual boundaries. When I was a teen, my parents did not allow me to go somewhere alone with a guy. I understood that rule and could follow it. I never arrived in a sexually tempting situation where I had to weigh the risks against the benefits. Considering some teens actually have to think about whether it’s a good idea to set their hair on fire, I’m thankful for that.
There is much more that could be said from a rebelutionary perspective, but for now Brett and I are curious to hear your reaction to the different quotes above. Does the new study ring true in your experience? What do you think is the best solution to teens’ high-risk behavior?
Very interesting stuff guys!
Suzanne Hadley makes a very pertinent point: The better option would be to keep them out of high-risk situations altogether. She didn’t mention it there, but, to leave it at that leaves space for a dangerous problem. If behaviour modification is the only tool used to keep teens out of dangerous/risky situations, the result is a breed of whitewashed tombs – clean on the outside of the cup, still filthy on the inside.
Perhaps the best solution then, toward Christian teens is to keep them from risky situations reminding them of their responsibility toward God to protect the temple of the Holy Spirit, and pointing them toward filling their time with the pursuit of good works. Toward unbelieving teens, keeping them from risky situations would also be necessary – along with which must go a message of repentance and belief in Christ as well as a reminder to protect the image of God, their bodies. As Baxter says: “Men must be brought into a state of grace, before we can expect from them the works of grace”.
Some of the first few quotes were very, very interesting! It’s amazing how the motivation (in performing risky behaviour) is all toward self and self-gratification. You’re so right when you said “your actions reveal who and what you’re living for”. In light of this, I think there is actually a place for “risky” behaviour! The reason I say that is because of the lessons I’ve learnt from an extremely interesting verse in Acts – which I wrote about it in “No Time to be Tired“
VERY interesting! They may have a point there. After all, king Solomon didn’t say “Tell the child what all the results of certain actions are, and he will walk in the right path and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” He said “Train up a child in the way he should go…” Parents aren’t going to be held accountable for how much information about drugs and sex there gave their teens. They will be held accountable for if they taught their toddler the meaning of “no” and held to it. If they disciplined their five-year-old, and if they trained their 11-year-old to fear the Lord and love His ways. These will bear the right fruit in their teens. Not sex manuals and drug abuse stats.
Hey Guys. That was a very good article. It really did give some unique new ideas on the American teen. For the most part I think they got it right. Its not that teens are too young or too stupid to make the right decisions, but that their priorities are in the wrong place. However, if you look at it from a humanistic worldview, there is nothing wrong with doing things for the immediate pleasure. “Because what it right for you may not be right for me.”
There were a few interesting ideas on a solution to teen behavior. The problem that I have with limiting what a teen can do for bad can very easily limit what a teen can do for good. When people start placing tight control over teens it is limiting their freedom. This type of control done in the right way is perfectly acceptable for parents and even needed. But it is not the role of the government. As I read that article I could just hear liberal advocates trying to say we need to pass certain laws to limit what teens can and can’t do, etc.
Of course the perfect solution is to see a teenager living by the grace of God, dieing to themselves, and solely focused on serving Christ. Christian teens have the same brains as any other teen. But Christians who act like Christians will care enough to think about what they are doing and recognize the danger of immediate pleasure and will do things for their eternal outcome.
I think teens are more irresponsible today then they where say, 150 years ago. 150 years ago no one of thought it wrong to buy a 15 year old a shot gun. After all he was given more responsibility and had to help with putting food on the table. But the idea of giving a 15 year old a gun to day could be consider a very risky thing. I think the problem is low expectations of teens and lack of maturity due to low expectations.
Teens are also bored to death with life. Most kids today are given too much too soon. I’m talking materialism. If you have no challenge in your life, no want or need, why not be risky? What do you have to loose.
I also think that because of the teaching in most state schools today, aboration, we all come from monkeys, etc. Gives the thought that we are all expendable.
Looking back on my teenage years, when I was not a Christian, I would say that this analysis is absolutely spot on. Not that I ever drank Drano…… For me it came out in areas like relationships and drinking. I knew all the risks involved and yet when it came down to it, it made no difference to my actual behaviour. I think part of that is that we often get given a lot of facts about a potential risk without being taught how to guard our hearts or how to actually make a moral judgment. So when we’re in the situation stuff like peer pressure or wanting to seem ‘with it’ or what we read in Cosmopolitan magazine can have a deeper influence.
This also made me think about the travelling I did in my late teens. I went to (in fact deliberately sought out) dangerous places, such as Bosnia and Kosovo in which to work, mainly because I was attracted to the “glamour” of going somewhere different, that my peers would never dream of visiting because of the dangers. I didn’t go naively. I knew that there were ongoing troubles from wars in those places. I knew there were high incidents of violence and terrorism, often against Westerners. It’s maybe a little different from taking drugs, but the point is the same. More information didn’t make me change my mind. As Jacqui notes, it was my heart that was the issue, not the amount of information I had.
Having said that, I would go back to those places, but my motivation is a lot different. My preparation would be a lot different – how could I influence the people I met with the Gospel? I would be more thoughtful about the risks, but I would still go because I now know the sovereign God who protects His children wherever He leads them.
Interesting post, Alex. I would agree, teens (children in general), tend to think only about the here-and-now.
When I was 5 years old, I asked my dad at the store to give me 50 cents for a pack of gum. In a curious gesture, Dad answered me saying, \”I\’ll tell you what. If you wait until tomorrow, I\’ll bring you BACK to the store and buy you TEN packs of gum. Would you like that better?\”
Most kids at 5 years of age would answer the same way, \”No.\” It seems, and I base this off of my own experience and the experience of some of my other close friends, that the older we get, the more long-term we become in our thinking. It is this way even until the day of death; my Grandparents have only recently started realizing, \”One day I am going to die, and I need to have everything in order for my children and grandchildren.\” From everything I\’ve ever known, I would say that part of the maturing process in a person is learning to think further ahead than right now, or tomorrow. Unfortunately, in this culture it IS necessary to put certain limitations on teens, because we have not been taught to be responsible, thoughtful adults. The point is that teens ARE kids in this culture.
My hope is that in the future, we as parents WILL teach our kids to be adults, and that those who are parents NOW would be convicted to raise the expectations for their children.
Theres alot of good points in those comments…
My summary would be:
Lack of responsibility, kids mature at at least 15 but arn’t expected to be adult till their 20’s, which gives 5 solid years of no man’s land time.
Lack of purpose, or reason to live. Its hard for teens to live today because everything they want is given to them on a platter, they don’t need to go out and get a job to support the family, they get a job to get more nice cloths, stuff, and a car…
And as far as living life… its whatever you want to do but if you don’t do anything there is money in parents and government, or just some side job somewhere enough to make ends meet.
And with all the craziness out there, all the matirealism, it really doesn’t make you happy but leaves you empty on the inside. We’re getting richer but our spiritual needs are getting bigger too.
Which explains why youth are just living today, tommorrow doesn’t matter anymore. For some of them its just to painful to look ahead, despite all the stuff they have their empty inside as the Grand Canyon. And when your in pain… it doesn’t matter what you do. Drinking, sex, anything to fill that hole.. because ‘it won’t ever happen to me’ and if it does, its tommorrows worry.
When I look at today’s teen, I can see why they are who they are today.
That is a very interesting post. Speaking from experience, teens do do stupid things because they misplace their priorities. We want to do whatever feels good at the moment. Which of course is hardly ever the right or good thing. That to me is a very sobering fact.
Unfortunately, teen aren’t expected to grow up and mature till early or even late 20’s. Not only that but alot of parents are dropping the ball (so to speak) by not training up their children in the way of the Lord. If the teens today were trained up in the way of the Lord instead of doing whatever they want to do; then I don’t think they would make as many stupid decisions.
Tie ’em up and let ’em out at 18!!
It does seem like throughout history young people have been more prone (in general) to do dumb things, mainly for the pleasure aspect or the thrill factor. I think it has nothing to do with an inability to make wise decisions, and everything to do with the state of their hearts. A lot of young adults are living with a very Epicurean attitude (‘Eat, drink and be merry’), with no purpose other than their own happiness. There are many older people who think the same way, but lack that young adventurousness and zeal, so they don’t do quite so many of the same dumb things that younger people do. They do more mature stupid things. 😉 Heres the thing, until people find the Lord and decide to live for Him, they really (in their minds) have no reason to behave wisely and selflessly. They are LIVING for SELF, like little babies. Even us Christians have to be careful of letting ourselves get in the way of our good judgement–it seems like any time I’ve made a stupid decision, it has been based entirely on a self-centered goal.
I was just telling my mom about the above article, and she said that she had read somewhere once that young men (in particular) don’t really start registering the danger factor of things until they are about 26 or so. Thats why they are able to do fearless things, like joining the army or diving off cliffs into a river, etc. I don’t have any information on that, but it is interesting. I think that there is some truth there—and I don’t think it is a bad thing. As Christian young men and women, we just have ask God for the wisdom to see through our young fearlessness and do the right thing instead of the stupid thing. Fearlessness and selfishness are two different things, though.
Interesting post! Will you add me to your blogroll? I’ve added your blog to mine. No need to respond, I’ll just watch your blogroll.
Sean: I was just thinking the other day about the same thing, my brother really wants a gun(for hunting)-to anyone that didn’t know him it’d sound really bad.
It’s crazy how much things change.
Sure, I think it’s a good idea to give teens boundries. That’s what parents and mentors are for–wisdom doesn’t happen overnight! Our elders can protect us from our own stupidity by giving us reasonable boundries.
However, as a lot of the other posts are getting at, that time of being protected by boundries needs to be a time of growing up “in the way we should go,” a time for learning wisdom from those wiser than us and learning to seek the Lord. The problem is the temptation to believe that our only purpose in life as teenagers/young adults is to have a good time.
Thanks for the fascinating post!
The more I see of my peers in today’s culture the more I am thankful for the parents God has given me. I don’t know why He chose to bless me with them, but I am so grateful for it. They have taught me and all my siblings from infancy to walk in God’s ways and follow His commandments. I think some parents do not realize that training their teenagers begins at birth. Parents need to get the hearts of their children if they desire to mold their character and grow a love for wisdom in them. (It’s like what you said, Amy, about training them up when they are young.) But what do parents do with kids who are 15 and haven’t learned to love wisdom or obedience? At that point I think all a parent can do is restrict and punish in love–and try to show their children the gospel of Christ.
Every now and then my pastor teaches about the indicative and the imparative, which basically means cause and effect. Our gratitude for God’s grace is what causes us to desire to obey Him. When we have experieced his amazing love, our hearts want to show Him our thankfulness which exhibits itself as obedience and worship. But for teens who don’t know God’s love, their is nothing to make them desire wisdom. The world will encourage their folly and their friends will give them attention when they do stupid things. Until their is Christ there isn’t any reason to be wise.
Many of these problems stem from a flawed worldview. These teens don’t recognize any absolute standard. Therefore, they see nothing wrong with “the pleasures of sin for a season” … because, what is sin? Who says that these things are wrong? Everyone else is doing it, so why can’t I? Granted, there may possibly be some eventual undesirable consequences, but it’s ultimate “my choice” to decide what to do.
All the government programs in the world aren’t going to change these kids. It’s not government’s responsibility to educate kids, or to solve these problems, anyway. It is parents’ God-given responsibility. A change of heart is needed for these teens, which can only be brought about through God’s Word. It all comes down to: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Intensive discipleship in a biblical way is needed if our culture is ever going to improve!
Very interesting article! Thanks for posting it!
I can tell everyone right now that not EVERY teenager does something dangerous because they are immature or have their priorities out of order…or that they only focus on the immediate here and now.
In fact, I am a teenager with good grades and morals and I know that when I get into trouble I am thinking WELL into the future and sometimes you just have to take risks and the outcome of the situation can sometimes DEFFINATLEY be worth every ounce of punishment or consequense that they may face. Every kid gets introuble. Some more than others, but adults have deffinately had their share of risk-taking.
But im not just talking about drugs or drunk driving. Every kid reacts differently. Educating on risks may stop one kid but since we all have a different mentality, it won’t phase the other kid.
Adults don’t take the same risks, because they TOOK them when THEY were teenagers. Even if adults don’t believe they take risks… they should know that they do every day in every little decision they make, just like their kids.
Risks is what life is made of.
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I thought, all american teenagers really-really free… I mean, that ‘free’
(Hahh… too much watch Hollywood movies :-P)
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Right then, GOD Bless !
(not teenager anymore :-D)
I found this very interesting, although unfortunately not too surprising (at least, the setting hair on fire part… You know, that kinda sounds like fun, but it’d hurt too much…). Speaking as a teen, I think perhaps the best solution is, as others have said, to bring children up knowing what’s right and wrong, and most importantly, to enforce consequences. Many parents nowadays will draw a line, but then let their kids cross it with no consequences. I do think, however, that as a child becomes a teenager, it is time for parents to slowly and carefully start letting go, but while still encouraging their children to think about right and wrong, and still teaching them what is right or wrong. This is pretty much what my parents are doing with my sisters and I, and although we have made our mistakes (I became anorexic at one point), we have also seen that ‘for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction,’ or that every thing we do wrong will come back, and it won’t be pretty. Teens will make mistakes. But likely the best protection is to make sure they learn from them.
With all the focus on teenagers we might be missing an important point. Of course teenagers need to be trained from babyhood up, but ADULTS do to. The fact is, the lost adults of today are not acting too much different from the lost teens of today. Lost people are acting just as stupid as ever, whether teen or adult. (Probably, the researchers of the original article do not have this view point.) Perhaps the teens are more stupidly inclined, but it all depends on your definition of stupid.
My 18 year old cousin just got pregnant with her boy friend. Her mom, who has lived with, married, and slept with more men than anyone can count, (she is nearly 50 and no sign of change yet) was shocked at the behavior of her daughter. Now according to my aunt, my cousin’s actions would probably be counted as a ‘stupid teenager mistake,’ not because of her immorality or the possibility of disease, but because she didn’t take birth control first.
I will agree that teens are more prone to take risks. I know that I am. But I do not take what I would call “stupid” risks. As Alex G. said, some risks are well worth the taking. You might easily say that God took a risk when He gave us a free will, and His Son followed His example when He took the risk of becoming a Man. (Read “Don’t Waste Your Life” by John Piper for a good view on risk taking.)
The root question for us shouldn’t be, How do we keep teenagers from acting dumb, but Are we living the life of light God has called us to live; are we showing the lost a better way? Not how do we keep teenagers from taking risks, but: are we taking the risk to save them?
I just re-read this post and am not quite sure what to think. If you are all advocating keeping us teenagers in a padded cell, think again. I don’t want my parents to all keep me in a sterile environment, protected from stupid decisions. I want my parents to set boundaries and keep me informed. If they set boundaries, tell me why they are set and I then go out and make a stupid decision, it is my own fault and I should suffer the consequences. I don’t think that, as parents, not telling your teen about the dangers of this world is a wise decision. Eventually the kids will move out and be faced with many decisions that they have no idea about. I want to move out informed and KNOW what is wrong and right and make the good decisions because I want to honor God and it is the right thing to do, but I can’t do that if I have not had the chance to turn down a few opportunities first.
there is now such thing as a teenager inside we all now there somthing wrong about it all your eather a child or an adult there is NO MIDDLE GROUND……
without risk u probly live in a bubble and if u live in a bubble dont look now cause im about to pop it………
I know this is off topic. Just wanted to let you guys know that the link to “Detective J.” on your blogroll no longer works. It appears that the person removed their site.
P.S. Would you consider adding me to your blogroll. 🙂
Beth your the best!!!
i don’t think it’s just the teens that do stupid things. some parets may even be the influence by doing stupid things. teens think it’s okay just because their parents do something stupid also.
Well, David Peyton, we have to know some things, like how to deal with those kinds of situations. Now, Liv Trull, makes a good point.
I don’t agree with this. Teens do stupid things because they see other people doing stupid things. its not something that comes naturally like some people would like to believe. I have done stupid things only because I have seen people I look up to do them.
wow……… there are several reasons for teens to do stupid things
They see their friends and family doing it
They see people such as movie stars, rock stars, and other celebrities doing it.
They think it’s cool.
They assume it’s the only way of life
They think if they don’t people will deem them “uncool” or “weird”.
They fear the consequences if they don’t do stupid things.
They think “acting out” is the only way to gain the attention of their parents.
They want (as weird as this sounds, actually WANT) to cause strife and arguments.
They will do anything to get some extra money, which will supposedly buy what they want; the newest videogame system, drugs, “cool” things, etc.
I pray every day for teens who find themselves using this kind of reasoning. There are many other “excuses” for doing stupid things. I can’t possibly know all of them. But every person is different; we all have our reasons for what we do. Sad as it is, there are people out there who don’t know anything about God, and they truly believe that there is no God and we’re all doomed to perish into nonexistence when we die. I want to bring hope to those people and help them to come to know Christ.
if anyone has any problem with what I’ve said, don’t hesitate to tell me where you disagree.
Love in Christ,
I think that Beth is absolutely right.
I also think teens do stupid stuff because we’re not presented much else. (Not that that makes it at all right.)
I think that it’s not just teens who do stupid things I see alot of adults doing stupid stuff also.To me it’s a thing a matureity not age…. at least for the most part. 🙂
Two weeks ago, the swing I was on broke; I fell and broke my wrist. I still love swinging, and I still swing on our old swingset.
Kids break limbs falling out of trees, off of bikes, skateboards, and trampolines.
However, deliberately setting your hair on fire? What kind of birdbrain would do that? At the same time, I’m thinking what’s the difference between firing up your hair and swinging on a swingset that dropped me once? They’re both done for immediate fun with full knowledge of the consequences.
Perhaps the difference is the risk. There’s no risk in setting your hair on fire. There’s no chance it will do anything other than burn and hurt and, even if you put the flames out, leave you looking a good deal worse than before. Skateboarding or doing tricks on your bike are risky, but I’m more willing do indulge in these kinds of dangers because I there is no guarentee I WILL get hurt.
People who don’t take some risks are cowards. For instance, in places where Christians are persecuted for their faith, people are risking their lives to obey God. Everyone who ever became someone did so at a risk.
I wish I knew a bit more about this. If anyone wants to add to what I wrote or clarify it, feel free.
Sandra: Revelations 2:10 tells us to be faithful unto death and we will receive a crown of life.
So we should take risks, but we need to use our heads and only take risks for those things that are really worth it. Whatever it is, we should ask ourselves, is it worth our time, money, or our reputation and Christian Testimony, and most importantly is it worth risking our relationship with Christ?
Personally I believe the only things worth risking my life for are Jesus Christ and His Holy Word.
I hope this is an encouragement.= )
Alex and Brett: I don’t think that “teenagers” have to find themselves doing stupid things, but if you really look at why they are it all goes back to a lie that they believe.
The lie that “teenagers are not capable of doing anything more significant.
If you think about it nearly every sin and every stupid thing that we do can be traced back to a lie that we have believed, lies that our culture bombards us with everyday.
The only way to refute those lies is to turn to the ultimate source of Truth, Jesus Christ.
Have you heard of Focus on the Family’s Truth Project?
My Church is going through this series of classes, they really make you think.
I have repeated some of their ideas here.
P.S. I just became a Rebelutionary when I received your book for Christmas and I am happy to say that my life will never be the same!! A million times thank you!!!
Wow, this is interesting. Well, I’m glad I haven’t thought about setting my hair on fire, but teenagers do stupid things, and I’ve done some stupid stuff. Take my advice, don’t drink pickle juice, or try to eat a whole carton of cool whip, it’s not worth five bucks. Any way, I think the main reason teens do stupid things is to fit in, I mean, teens act way differrent around different people, so they do different stuff too, and some of it is stupid stuff. Like… eating a carton of cool whip or setting your hair on fire. So maybe they see someone doing it and want to fit in, or it’s a dare, and if they don’t do it they’re looked down upon. Or maybe they made a bet and want the five bucks. Whatever the case, teens don’t have to do dumb things. Maybe we should replace dumb things with hard things. 🙂
Wow, its cool to see all these people put their opinions about this topic on here, as a teenager myself, I’d like to post my own. Frankly, sometimes we do stupid things merely because they seem fun or plain funny, like jumping off of stuff that wasn’t even meant to be climbed, throwing crap into a tree only to try and get it down with a rock the size of your hand -nearly getting impaled in the process-, and swinging from a rope off a Stage onto a neat row of chairs set up for the performance that night. Just saying, sometimes we do stupid things to do stupid things, and often we don’t think they’re stupid because we do think we’re invincible. Sadly, that’s rarely the case =P
Just putting it out there, I’m not one of those teens who drinks, has sex, or does drugs. I’m well raised with tight boundaries -even though i often despise those boundaries- but i still do stupid things.
Can’t wait for real life! …not.
Take care everyone =D
Awesome article guys I loved it 🙂 Alex & Brett you guys do an awesome job with this website/Blog I love the way you guys are so fired up for the lord 🙂 I am very restricted in what I can do on the internet but my Mom would rather me come onto your website than play on WEBKINZ (a virtual world where you take care of pets (it has limitations that some other websites don’t have)) 🙂
hello, i am almost 16 and have seen adults do some really stupid things that i, my teen self would never do. would i set my hair on fire…no!no way, i like my hair too much! would i have unprotected sex? never, until ive settled down and decide to have kids! condoms are effective 70% of the time, but i would be on birthcontrol too, so it would be nearly impossible to get pregnant. and thats my “when the time comes” promise to myself. yeah, im still a virgin. but i wouldnt know how to protect myself if i hadnt been taught. we need to know about the risks out there in the world! if i didnt know how bad drugs and smoking is i wouldnt know any better than to try it. ive seen many of my aunts and uncles get messed up with drugs (in their 60’s-80’s mind you). i aint dropping to their level! youve got to be kidding me! my parents give me guidance, but not so much boundries. i have better judgement than to go out with a bunch of guys i dont trust. if im at a party and drink, i would get someone like my parents to bring me home. and as far as my body, its mine. my parents respect that. but i wont do stupid things with it. piercings are a form of self expression, and trendy fashion, not a gang sighn.tattoos are an art. and teenagers are normal people entering adulthood. if you gave us the opportunity to mature, and become independant, and gave us alittle more RESPECT maybe we wouldnt seem so stupid. i know the one thing that fires me up, and makes me want to do something bad, is when people walk all over me, and tie me up, and spit out threats and orders trying to make me into what they want. so guys, try advice next time.
I think you got something right Megan. When you don’t think people are capable, you don’t let them do something. People take rules too far with teens and make them want to do the opposite just to spite them. Christ is the way to life and wisdom. Not government an excessive regulation.
I just want to re-express my thoughts. The author said that he thought more restrictive laws were called for, but I think the problem is the atmosphere kids are raised in i.e. too little responsibility early on.
I agree here with Anders and Megan. I think we teens are bothered by everyone wanting to control us and so we act out to send a message. I think too often kids are sheltered when they are with their parents up to their late teens and then go off into an unknown, untried world, virtually blind to any risks that may befall them and they find that the only way to educate one’s self is by experience. I’m an 18 year old and I’m doing a foreign exchange this year. God put me in Sweden, which is just about the most godless country in the world right now and I do find myself taking risks here. Not because I have any less information than the average person about the risks, but because i have the tiniest amount of experience in dealing with these situations and I’m going to be dealing with them every single day of my adult life. if Christ commanded us to be in the world and not of it, I don’t think we can run away from these things forever. Not that I’m advocating total irresponsibility as far as sex, drugs, alcohol and other such dangers go, but i think the introduction of experience into the equation is reasonable. Adults don’t take risks, because they already took those risks as teenagers. Our problem is that all these temptations are being shoved in our faces, not that we’re more irresponsible than our parents or grandparents. It’s not just “kids these days”, because we’re all subject to human nature. it’s the society around us that is changing.
I think that a level of maturity is completely involved. Its like in the Do Hard Things book (which if you haven’t read you really should) with the “Kidults”. The adults that act like kids and do dumb things. Dumb things generally deal with material things “earthly treasure”. Like in the article when it says “a short-term outlook on life” If we focus on storing up our treasure in Heaven that will last, the things we do will not be dumb.
My youth pastor just did a series called Hot Topics. One session was “How Far Is Too Far?”. He discussed how teens LIKE rules because we then know how far we can go without being on “The Bad Side”. He posed a different question. “How Pure Can I Stay?”. We should not get as close to the imaginary line as possible (the world’s rules). Instead we should strive to follow God’s limits.
Many people do really stupid things. Most of the time teens do stupid stuff is when some one dares them or if there showing off. Many people try to make themselves look better then they really are or to cover something up. I have to admit I’ve done some stupid stuff in my life and i would like to take it back but i can’t. I can only ask God to for give me for what i did which can be really hard sometimes.
I am the mother of three. We have an extremely loving family that finds that alot of our time ministering is done as a family. We have a Word of Faith background. But my 14 year old, extremely compassionate, brilliant, gifted girl recently made a huge mistake that none of us can really explain or understand. It would have devastated us but we put our hope in God and we strive to not crush her dreams. We are concerned that it has soiled our name and our Lord Jesus’s name. We are guarding her. We know the devil tempts kids to run away and to kill themselves over stupid stuff like this.
We found out on Thursday that our daughter had sent a half-naked picture to a boy over Christmas break and just this Thursday it went viral. The boy was pressuring her for sex when she wouldn’t even make out with him and they split. The boy sent it to a girl “friend” who was angry with my daughter. Our daughter had already repented for this stupid act at her youth winter retreat. This is a young lady who isn’t allowed to date and has never even made-out. She changes in the shower during gymn class. She dreams of being a missionary and teacher. What was she thinking??? Is she really not able to think clearly just because of some chemical imbalance that takes place in teenhood?
Thanks for the great info, I will definitely be back!
I was bored when i was a 13 and i wanted to rebel against the christian Morals. I thought that these rules make life even more boring so I decided to spice things up a bit. I do not blame my parents at all for the things I have done because they taught me well. It was my decision to start smoking and drinking excessively at parties, I was the one who envied others who didn’t know what they were doing because their parents told them it is normal to come home totally wasted when you’re fourteen and that they should experiment with other substances as long as the are natural and not to dangerous. It’s that way in the Austrian culture.
I thought i was fighting for freedom in a world full of rules, but it wasn’t really freedom i wanted but anarchy to do what ever i wanted and not what was best for me or what god wanted me to do. I didn’t realize that god had set rules upon us to protect us from the evils of a world full of immorality and sin. I’ve learned my lesson and have to live with the consequences.One of the reasons i was bored is that i had so much time on my hands that i could use freely and didn’t do anything constructive with it. I ran away from “Hard Things” like helping at home, having an after school job or taking any responsibility and ran in to the wide world where i thought i would have fun all the time.
It looked like a paradise, open and free and at first i was happy to get so wasted that i …. or to try pot. Then i noticed that these things were “fun” but didn’t fulfill me or bring any real lasting joy to me at all. We always think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence and instead of thinking about why we shouldn’t do stupid things, we let society fill us with lies about how enjoyable sin is. The bible offers explanations for all the rules god set upon us.
If you have any questions write me in the forum. My name is Daniel Colvin
Well as a teenager, I must say I agree with some of what was said; I think I value instant gradification over deferred and make impulsive decisions based on the good, not the bad…but completely isolating kids from decision making isn’t going to prepare or equip your kid with decision making skills needed in the adult world, and being restricted and punished when I think its unfair or too controlling just makes me want to do it again to make my parents mad. Restriction entices rebellion.
I know we do stupid stuff and maybe some we regret and some we don’t , but I think its valuable to have your own decisions in your hands, even if they are ludarcis, they make you feel alive…and just because a legal docuement declares you aren’t able to think, provide and experience life and responsibilty for yourself until your 18, doesn’t mean that is physically, socially or spiritually true….You know if teens were kept away from all temptations and risk situations, if they never questioned authority, what kind of adult would they make? They wouldn’t challenge or risk anything and progression would likely cease. So let kids be kids!
I have to say, I enjoy reading your post. Maybe you could let me know how I can subscribing with it ? I feel I should let you know I found your page through google.
in my opinion teens do stupid things becuase they want to be diffrent and think for them selve if they are givin boundries its only expected the will try to break them wihich does not mean they shouldnt have rules if they dont have ruless how will they follow the laws when they are out of the house.
p.s. i am only 13
alot of interesting points made. I definitely agree with suzanne hadley when she says teens are given too much information about risky behaviors. & the information we’re given isn’t always (in fact, most of the time it’s not) negative. for example if you watch shows like the secret life of the american teenager, she gets pregnant, keeps all of her friends, has a good support background & after she has her baby everything goes back to normal right away. that is obviously NOT what really happens. if teens are given that kind of information, I believe it encourages them rather than discourages them to go out & do stupid things like that.
on the other hand, I personally believe there’s too much information out there for teens to freely read about things like how to have protected sex, how to drink responsibly, etc. sex is risky & stupid (before marriage) no matter what & drinking under-age is the same. when teens are given information saying “this is how you make it okay” they’re going to think that if they use protection or if they only have one drink for example, then it’s okay. when clearly it’s not.
another point is that today’s culture makes it “cool” to be risky & do things that definitly qualify as stupid. for example if you go to a party & are the only one who doesn’t have a beer or go in the bedroom with your boyfriend/girlfriend, then you’re supposedly a “loser.” being a teen myself, I know that what we’re focused on most of the time at this stage is fitting in. the culture today including tv, music, movies etc. encourage the idea that if you don’t take risks, if your life isn’t always exciting or on the edge then you don’t fit in with everybody else. in my opinion, that’s the main reason teens do stupid things. because if your life is always exciting & you always have a story to tell about something risky you did that no one else can top, then you fit in & you’ll always have a bunch of friends.
I personally think that the “cure” for teens stupid behavior is to completely stop putting things out there that say that any kind of risky behavior can be made non-risky. to stop teaching teens that if you only have one drink you won’t get pulled over on the way home, or if you use protection there’s no way you won’t get pregnant. because obviously those things aren’t always true.
the media influences so much of our lives that if doing stupid, risky things was completely discouraged (rather than partially or wholly encouraged) I believe that A LOT of that behavior would stop.
My uncle just got diagnosed with diabetes – our health is so important. Thanks for a such a useful story.
I totally agree with this article. When I was a teenager, I knew enough not to drink, smoke, try drugs, or have sex. Still, as just a baby Christian, my goal was to have as much fun as possible without doing anything too stupid (in other words, I thought it was okay to do something stupid if it seemed fun enough, just nothing “too” stupid). So I did things like go to dangerous concerts, read erotica, watch porn, etc. Obviously those weren’t the best choices, but at the time I always weighed the risk vs. the immidate enjoyment I could get out of something and stupidly decided the risk was worth it. After dealing with several mosh pit injurys and battling a porn addiction, I finally grew up and started making better choices.
With the way things are going these days, though this link might be of use to the readers here.
i agree with this author on everything except one aspect.
there should NEVER be any premarital sex, protected, or unprotected! it is not only against the bible, but it is also not healthy! DO NOT DO IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I COMPLETELY UNDERSTAND YOUR POST, AND I STRUGGLED WITH THE SAME THINGS ALSO!!! we should talk about, and pray with one another, and ask god for help with those sins! shoot me an email!
that was to “jenna” and anyone else who agrees!
alle i really liked the points that u made. thank you. i am goin to my friends party in a few days, and i thought that that was how it would feel! wow u put that into perspective! thank you!
Thanks for your great article! It has long been very insightful. I hope that you will proceed posting your knowledge with us.
I do think that it is best to stay out of certain situations but I think that knowledge is a good thing. I know many people who would do stupid things if they didn’t know the risks involved.
I really wish people would stop saying that teens are the only ones making wrong decisions as if adults don’t. I’m 17 and it wouldn’t take a while for me to think that drinking Drano or setting your hair on fire is bad. I have never had sex, took drugs, or drank alcohol in my life. Every teenager is different and it’s not wise to put all of us in a single category. Knowledge can be a good or bad thing depending on what you do with it and everyone uses it differently. Everyone is guilty of doing stuff for a quick fix. It’s called SIN and it doesn’t discriminate against age, color, race, disability, etc. King Solomon was the wisest king in his day and he made dumb decisions. I’m not a fast paced person and I’m a deep thinker. We all have our own maturity rate. Some may learn from their mistakes as soon as they make them while others don’t learn until they have some near-death experience. There’s different strokes for different folks.
i cannot believe how many people are agreeing with this article!
didn’t anyone read “do hard things”?
didn’t you see that most teens have the capability for responsibility?
and i don’t like the idea that we should hide information from these young people who will eventually be the adults, they will go into the world, and not know how to deal with the temptations!
i agree with staying away from the possible occasion of sin, thats something all people should do.
but rules can only hold back sin until the child is too old to have them apply.(18, 22….) wear-as information can be a positive influence from the moment its given till the day of death.
the reason that the adults didn’t have to think is that they did a lot of thinking when they were teenagers.
[…]The Rebelution: Why Teenagers Do Stupid Things[…]…
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I don’t think informing teens is the problem.. Because if you do not inform them then they are bound to learn from society and that can have adverse effects on the way they view things like drinking and premarital sex. It would be better to teach them about it, all it’s negative effects, show them why the ‘benefits’ are not worth it.
Teach them all these effectively from a young age and the scripture guarantees in Proverbs 22:6 “Start children off on the way you they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it”. Going with that, just tell them about it and when they face it they’ll turn away from the negative.. And not your teaching, because, they love you, because they love themselves, because they love God.
Informing isn’t the issue, a teenager is still developing tho. If you were to stop educating teens about what there is out in the world then how can you expect them as an adult to know how to make smart decisions, as your simply pushing the boundaries on if a persons ability to deal in situation without any prior knowledge and are causing them to possible not be able to change where their perceptions of the rewards are when reasoning a “stupid thing” out are.
Honestly, this rubs me the wrong way. It sounds like we teens can’t be trusted to make wise decisions…. and maybe some of us can’t. But whose fault is that, really? Also, rules are completely pointless if you don’t understand why they’re there.
Hey Grace, this study is intended to be a conversation starter, so it’s fine if aspects of the article rub you the wrong way.
You may enjoy (and resonate more) with an article we published last September that takes advantage of more recent research: