Teen Thrill-Seeking is Growing More “Extreme”
Two teens jumped off the Melbourne Bridge for fun. One is dead and the other severely traumatized. Investigating the incident, officials learned that bridge jumping is popular with teens.
Risky behavior or attempting thrill-seeking feats is nothing new.
But the difference today is that teens are taking those behaviors to the extreme. That’s because they seek acceptance, or thrills, or believe they are invincible, said Dr. Vicki Panaccione, a Melbourne psychologist who specializes in teen behavior.
“Teenagers in general really think they are invincible and they don’t grasp the concept of death,” Panaccione said. “They figure if it happens to someone else, it still won’t happen to them.”
“Between media messages and the teen-age sense of invincibility, I think lots of teens are making careless decisions,” Panaccione said.
Teens who are more vulnerable to risky behaviors are those with low self-esteem, those who want to belong or those wanting attention. “But any teen could be vulnerable to peer pressure and all will experiment (with risky behavior) to some extent,” Panaccione said.
Dr. Panaccione offers these tips for dealing with death, dares and risky behaviors:
1) Parents should talk to their children about the dangers of risky behaviors.
2) Encourage kids to talk, either with parents, guidance/grief counselors or religious leaders by giving them an outlet to do so.
3) When a teen in the community dies, parents should explore their child’s feelings, whether they knew the teen or not.
4) Realize that reactions to death and this type of risky behavior will vary from person to person. Some teens will say, “That was really stupid,” while others will need to address the topic with an adult.
5) Although adults can’t keep a constant eye on teens or predict what they will do, parents can monitor their peer group. Make sure you feel comfortable with the people your child is hanging out with.
6) Look for changes in your child’s mood or behavior that could signal poor self-esteem or depression, issues that could trigger risky behavior.
7) Outline behaviors and activities that are fun and those that are risky and dangerous. Provide examples and discuss results of risky/dangerous behavior.
8) Urge teens to be cautious about what they dare others to do. What starts out as a harmless dare could result in tragedy.
As published in Florida Today, Dec. 4, 2002.
© MMVI Vicki Panaccione, Ph.D