Does your teenage kid keep tweeting even during his/her studies? This may well be because teenagers are far more sensitive than adults to the immediate effect or reward of their behaviours, says an Indian-origin researcher.
“The rewards have a strong, perceptional draw and are more enticing to the teenager,” said Jatin Vaidya, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa in the US.
Even when a behaviour is no longer in a teenager’s best interest to continue, they will because the effect of the reward is still there and lasts much longer in adolescents than in adults, Vaidya added.
The findings may help explain, for example, why the initial rush of texting may be more enticing for adolescents than the long-term payoff of studying.
For parents, that means limiting distractions so teenagers can make better choices.
Take the homework and social media dilemma: At 9 p.m., shut off everything except a computer that has no access to Facebook or Twitter, the researchers advised.
“I am not saying they should not be allowed access to technology,” Vaidya noted. “But they need help in regulating their attention so they can develop those impulse-control skills,” Vaidya added.
The study involved 40 adolescents, aged 13 and 16, and 40 adults, aged 20 and 35.
In the future, researchers hope to delve into the psychological and neurological aspects of their results.
“Are there certain brain regions or circuits that continue to develop from adolescence to adulthood that play role in directing attention away from reward stimuli that are not task relevant?” Vaidya asksed.
The study appeared online in the journal Psychological Science.