Does the Perception of Risk Outweigh the Risk?
I would like to think that teenagers have the ability to weigh the consequences of their actions and see that risky behaviors can be dangerous, but at this time in their life it can be a difficult skill to live by. In a NIDA-funded study, they found that teens think about both the risks and the rewards of their actions, but unlike adults, teens are more prone to ignore the risk in favor of the reward. In their study, they had teens drive and when friends were present, they were more likely to risk speeding through yellow lights than when alone. Brain activation was occurring through their reward centers while they knew their friends were watching and that led to risky behavior.
Through a recent study that we locally distributed to 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th graders in Bonneville County, I was able to see that student’s perception of their personal danger through substances was less important to them. In the survey, it was asked, “How much do you think people risk harming themselves physically or in other ways when they use a vape pen or e-cigarette?” 44.6% responded with “great risk” to this question. When asked if they had used a vape pen in their lifetime, 20% responded to have misused e-cigarettes at least once in their life. This proved to me that even though many students see the risk of vaping, they are disregarding this risk to try a new substance.
Many teenagers have a difficult time fitting into social groups and this may lead them to outweigh the risk of a behavior to fit in. Columbia University found that a child is six times more likely to have an alcoholic drink if their friends drink. This shows how important it is to give children a healthy environment with positive interactions and activities to participate in. If we can help them see the consequences of their actions and provide good influences around them, our local rates will decrease.