The Internet Makes Teens Stupid

Teenagers aren’t generally known for their well thought-out and reasoned decisions.  They often do dumb things with little or no regard for the consequences of their actions.  And they get a biological pass for their idiocy because the prefrontal cortex in their brains aren’t fully developed.

But while we may expect teens to take risks because they have immature decision-making abilities, the Internet has given them a whole new outlet for their stupidity. YouTube, Facebook and other social sharing sites have given thrill-seeking teens a much larger arena in which to display their poor judgment.  And that, say some, is giving rise to behavior that is riskier than ever.

Although there are no statistics to prove that the Internet is influencing kids to take more risks, anecdotal evidence would seem to back up the theory that the risks they are taking are more dangerous.  And there can be little doubt that the motivation behind all this risk-taking has moved from impressing a few friends to shocking thousands of strangers in order to rack up big numbers on YouTube.

Dr. E. Hani Mansour, a burn specialist in Livingston, New Jersey, has seen first-hand the damage an attention-seeking teen can do to himself.  A recent patient who suffered burns over 14% of his body admitted that he exploded a bathtub full of fireworks in order to film it and post it online.

Boys have been trying to be rocket scientists for many years.  But now we’re seeing it in a more brazen way. They’re doing it for the purpose of filming it.”

A quick search through YouTube videos reveals an astounding number of young people doing an astounding number of stupid things.  Flaming basketballs and moving cars figure prominently – and dangerously – in hundreds upon hundreds of homemade videos starring mostly young boys.

It would be easy to dismiss all this as just kids being kids, but the fact is that they are often causing serious injury to themselves and influencing others to try similar stunts themselves.  So, what’s a parent to do?

For starters, perhaps parents should put down the video cameras themselves.  When my oldest was a teen, I often felt like my number one job was to save her from herself.  But these days, parents are doing stupid things for attention right alongside their kids.  Like the dad who tied his young son’s loose tooth to a rocket and video taped the extraction.   When it’s all over, the kid looks slightly stunned while dad laughs so hard he can barely speak.  Sure, nobody got hurt.  But I predict a YouTube channel is this boy’s future.

Image: Knocked-Out Photography/Flickr

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