How you talk to teens could change how they behave

Changing teen behaviors
Posted at 10:21 PM, Jul 05, 2019

ORLANDO, Fla. — They’re lazy, rebellious, and irresponsible. You’ve probably heard some of these stereotypes about teens. But could how we talk to them make a difference in how they act?

The teen years can be a challenging time. But new research shows there may be a simple way to make it better: change the stereotypes!

Scientists conducted two studies that included 443 seventh graders living in China. The teens were divided into a control and intervention group. Kids in the control group talked about typical teen behaviors.

Those in the intervention group read materials that told them the media’s negative stereotypes of teens are incorrect.

The students were asked to come up with three examples of responsible behavior that they had observed teens in the intervention group.

The counter stereotyping group were more likely to have positive views of other teens, perform better academically and engage in less risky behavior over the next three days. This suggests that the way that teens perceive the adolescent years could affect how they act, proving perception really does become reality.

Here’s some encouraging news: teen pregnancy, recreational drug use, and smoking rates have declined in recent years. What is up? The number of teens who volunteer regularly!

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.