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Teenagers’ lack of impulse control leads to risky behaviour

Ontario residents may be interested a recent article discussing teenagers’ lack of impulse control and participation in extreme sports. While some suggest that participation in risky behaviour is part of the developmental process, lack of government regulations might leave teenagers exposed to unnecessary injuries.

Research shows that teenagers have two systems in their minds that seemingly work against each other. At a young age, the system that seeks rewards has fully matured, pushing teenagers to crave thrilling experiences. However, their ability to control impulses has not been fully developed. When faced with a decision that must be made quickly, a teenager will generally tend toward a riskier behaviour and be less able to resist his or her impulses while adults have a more mature impulse control system that allows them to better evaluate risk and reward comparisons.

This underdeveloped impulse control may also explain why many teenagers are interested in extreme sports, such as white-water rafting and bungee jumping. However, for-profit extreme sports facilities, which cater to risk seeking adolescents, are not covered by specific government regulations, and adults wrongly assume that there is some kind of government-mandated minimum safety standard in place when they pay for such services. The lack of government oversight might lead to an increased potential for injury for teenagers looking for an outlet for their risk-seeking behaviour.

One man whose child suffered a permanent injury while participating in a mountain-biking trip was awarded $21 million after reaching a settlement with the company who operated the track. Parents of children who have suffered similar injuries while under the supervision of extreme sports facilities might be able to pursue comparable compensation by filing actions in civil court.

Source: The Globe and Mail, “The risks and rewards of thrill-seeking with a teenage brain“, Sahar Fatima, June 23, 2014