More studies focus on teens than ever before

| September 5, 2013 | 0 Comments

Teenagers are the subject matter of more studies than ever before. One poll conducted in May 2013 by The Pew Research Centre in Washington, DC, revealed that Facebook is no longer American teens’ social platform of choice. They’re migrating in droves to Twitter instead.

Most certainly some of them are tweeting about their illicit behaviour: according to new data from the CS Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at the University of Michigan, more and more youngsters are taking stimulants behind their parents’ backs to study for tests or stay awake to complete assignments. ‘Study drugs’ are usually prescribed for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Teens without the condition may fake symptoms to get a prescription, or obtain the drugs from friends.

Other drugs are, as ever, being used by teens for pleasure. The United Nations Children’s Fund estimates in its latest Report Card 11 – Child Well-being in Rich Countries: A Comparative Overview, that 28% of Canadian teens smoke marijuana. This means that Canadian teens are the ‘highest’ in the world. Countries where the percentage of pot-smoking adolescents is below 10 % include Sweden, Romania, Greece and Iceland. The percentage climbs steadily when it comes to dope-smoking teens in Switzerland, Spain, France, the United States, Czech Republic, Latvia and Slovenia. In The Netherlands, where there are liberal drug laws, about 17% of young people smoke marijuana and, in Poland, where the drug was recently decriminalised, about 10% regularly indulge, as is the case in Denmark, Hungary and Austria.

In terms of school, a study released in the German journal Psychosomatic Medicine suggests that teenagers with higher blood pressure tend to display higher self-esteem and perform better in class. Meanwhile, back in America, online magazine To your Health cites these findings: “A recent study of teens (12–16 years old) found that ‘compared with those using the computer less than 3.6 hours/week, computer use of ≥14 hours/week was associated with moderate/severe increase in computer-associated musculoskeletal pain at all anatomic sites, and moderate/severe inconvenience to everyday life due to low back and head pain’.” In certain parts of the world, teens are spending so much time online, says a University of Adelaide, Australia, survey that polled 1 287 teenagers between 12 and 17 years old, because 40% of them are gambling, accessing games through social media, smartphone apps and video games. Such obsessive behaviour, says the study, increases their chances of developing gambling addictions in adulthood. The same applies to teens’ tendencies to drink alcohol too much and too often, says a team from the University of Heidelberg in Germany that analysed the drinking habits of over 200 teens.

Teens should put down the bottle or console and get outside, says the University of Western Australia’s School of Sport Science Exercise and Health, which has found that only 10% of teenage girls, and 40% of boys, exercise enough. However, the same study suggests that if youngsters are fans of ‘exergames’ such as Kinect Sports and Wii Fit, they can get into shape.

Teens generally are not known for making sensible decisions, and a study conducted for Teen Research Unlimited, based in Northbrook, Illinois, discovered that 71% of 13- to 18-year-olds surveyed said a boyfriend or girlfriend was spreading rumours about them on cellphones and social media sites. They’re also meeting strangers IRL (in real life) whom they first met on the internet, Australian Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said recently in an interview, based on the research his department was conducting.

And on a damning note: a report in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, after extensive interviews with teens, confirms that today’s young adults want nice things but are less willing than their predecessors to work hard for them. Says one of the study leaders: “That type of ‘fantasy gap’ is consistent with other studies showing a generational increase in narcissism and entitlement.”

Category: Spring 2013

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