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Teenage brains are wired for risky business

Anyone who has spent time around teens is aware that their decision-making skills can sometimes be called into question. But while that can be both frustrating and dangerous, teens' risk-taking tendencies actually have a biological basis.

Researchers studied over 5,000 teenagers and young adults all over the world in 11 different countries on five continents — Europe, Asia, the Americas and Africa. They published their findings in Developmental Science.

Young adults struggle with biological tendencies

The scientists discovered that sensation-seeking peaks at approximately 19-years-old before leveling off. But adults don't become able to fully self-regulate destructive impulses until their early to mid-20s.

Teenagers are tempted by a plethora of risky activities — the use of illegal drugs, underage drinking, driving dangerously and having unsafe sex.

Context matters

Cultural factors appear to have an effect on the risky behaviors in which young people indulge. In countries where alcohol use isn't prevalent, e.g., Indonesia, just 2 percent of teens surveyed admitted to drinking alcohol in the 30 days prior to the survey. In Argentina, however, that number jumped to about 50 percent.

Can parents protect teens better?

When it comes to real dangers like driving recklessly or after a teen has been drinking, parental supervision and intervention can make a positive difference.

By accepting that your teens will likely face situations where they are urged on by peer pressure to have sex, consume alcohol or do drugs, parents can help provide their kids with an out.

One way to do this is to work out a code with your teen. He or she can send a special emoji character to indicate that they are in over their head and need a parent to support them by showing up and removing them from the fray.

Then, parents can arrive at a teen drinking party and act as if they had caught their teen unaware. This alleviates any repercussions the teens might experience for being unwilling to drink or do drugs.

If your teen is injured in an accident

If you learn that your teen was hurt in an accident caused by another teen driver (or anyone else), you need to step up and be an effective advocate to ensure that they receive proper medical treatment. You may also have to initiate a claim for damages on their behalf so they can receive compensation for their injuries, as well as potential other damages.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/teens-brains-are-wired-for-risky-behavior-study/

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