It is commonly believed that teens are excessively reckless with technology. But when it comes to risky behaviors, how do teens and adults actually compare?


While Driving: Despite the fact many teens are glued to their cell phones (with boys and girls texting an average of 50 and 80 times a day, respectively), teens and adults take part in the dangerous act of texting while driving at similar rates. Twenty-seven percent of adults and 26% of teens of driving age report they have texted while driving. Furthermore, adults are much more likely (61% vs. 43%) to have made calls on their cell phone while driving.

Sexting: Public service messages alert teenagers to the potential risks of sending a sexually charged photo or text. Teens are often told these images can follow them for the rest of their lives.  But are adults getting the message as well? A 2009 study from the Pew Internet Foundation found that only 4% of teens have sent sexually graphic text messages. A similar 2008 study from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unwanted Pregnancy and CosmoGirl Magazine found this number to be 20%. For young adults, the percentage jumped to 33%. Older adults are taking part in the trend as well with the AARP reporting "Sexting Not Just for Kids!" 

Online Presence

: There is a lot of concern regarding teenagers posting personal information online. These concerns range from worry over presenting an image that can never be retracted to fear of online predators. However, results from a 2010 Pew Internet Foundation survey found that younger people are better than older adults at managing online personal information. Forty-four percent of young adults take steps to limit personal online information about them, compared to only 33% of adults ages 30-49, 25% of adults ages 50-64 and 20% of adults ages 65 and older. Younger people are also significantly more likely to create strict privacy settings on social networking sites, remove unwanted comments posted about them and remove their name from photographs shared online. It appears young people have received the message to be careful about online safety, while older adults still have a thing or two to learn.

About the Author

Kathryn Stamoulis Ph.D.

Kathryn Stamoulis, Ph.D., is an educational psychologist and licensed mental health counselor specializing in female adolescent development.

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