Teens And Risk: It’s Also About Media And Marketing Responsibility


A 2013 research article published in the journal Judgment and Decision Making illustrates that teens have unrealistic perceptions of potential risks. Data from over 3,400 teens was examined over a two year period, where self-risk assessments were compared to actual risk outcomes.

Teens almost always reported that there was little – even no – chance of being at risk for pregnancy (or getting someone pregnant), being arrested for criminal activity, or of dropping out of school. The teens who reported 0% chance of these risk outcomes were among those most likely to experience them.

Teens’ self-perception of risk is incredibly unrealistic. The study shows how much teens lack the ability to understand the potential consequences of their actions.

If teens are almost consistently wrong about what they perceive as risky behaviors, or the consequences of those risks, there is no need to say that this also applies to teens’ online and social media behavior.

Recent teen phenomena such as online “sexting” and peer abuse are widely documented and on the rise. So far, there has been little research concerning the involvement of teens with online pornography and inappropriate interaction with adults. Social media and online technology reinforces the notion of lack of consequences: being behind-the-screen seems to provide a false sense of protection. Being behind a screen and in a safe place like their room actually increases the inability of teens to evaluate potential dangers.

Parents and educators are unable to monitor at any given moment what the teens around them are doing. They merely hope that the warnings they’ve given them have stuck and remain vivid in their minds.

But guess what? Though, conscious and aware parents are trying hard to have an open discussion with their teens, the study clearly shows that it is not effective. Teens are hard-wired this way. There is an actual biological reason for teens’ underestimation of risks: this is the point in their lives when they must learn to start doing things by themselves, when they must learn to break out of their families’ protective circle. Thus, Mother Nature has done her job so well that she armed them with the ability to do so without fear!

This is a matter of broad social, media, and marketing responsibility to present content that not only does not encourage risky teen behavior, but warns kids about the dangers they are most likely to encounter.

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3 Comments on “Teens And Risk: It’s Also About Media And Marketing Responsibility”

  1. Iris Litt Says:

    Hey Valerie,

    Love your Blog!

    Must, however, take exception to the following quote: “Teens are hard-wired this way. There is an actual biological reason for teens’ underestimation of risks.” Did the article actually say this? If so, what is the evidence?

    As I have worked in this area for years, I assume that I would know this if it were accurate. Lacking evidence, I am concerned that parents get the message that there is nothing they can do to help their teens avoid risk. My experience would challenge that-agree that standard “scare” techniques are ineffective or counterproductive but much can be done by parents if they are well- informed and have established good lines of communication with their kids.

    Best, Iris

    Iris F. Litt, M.D.

    The Marron and Mary Elizabeth Kendrick Professor of Pediatrics, Emerita (Active) Director, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences

    Stanford University


    • valeriegrison Says:

      Hi Iris,
      Thanks for your precious comment. You are right, I must have insisted on the fact that the discussion parents/teenagers is critical and help a lot. Nevertheless, my point is that as a parent and educator, you must not believe that because you warned them, it is vivid in their mind. Talking with a lot of parents, and as my own experienced unfortunately taught me, they still do dangerous things you warned them against. They need to experience by themselves. Not on everything though, they sometime listen to parents/educators. I believe though that most of the teens trust more their peers recommendation than their parent’s.
      As for “Teens are hard-wired this way. There is an actual biological reason for teens’ underestimation of risks.” I heard a neuroscientist talking about this at a conference. I remember it very well because I thought it was making so much sense. I must admit I don’t recalled who he was but I promised I’ll reach out to you when I’ll do!



  1. Teens Brain Shuts Down When Mom Is Scolding | Valerie Grison Blog - December 17, 2014

    […] Having a parent criticizing or being angry at them is hurtful for kids at any age, even after they’ve reached adulthood. Remember also that being a teen means you are at a stage in your life when you must quit the comfortable nest. And Mother Nature has done things pretty well to arm you: this is the point in your life when you must learn to start doing things by yourself, when you must learn to break out of your family’s protective circle (See “Teens And Risk”) […]

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