Readers, don't misunderstand the following. We like teenagers.
treat many of them, we have family who teach them, we
have our own. Dr. Hendry actually has seven years of personal
experience as a teenager.
So it is not intended to be insulting or demeaning when we tell you
that, as a teenager, your brain
does not yet
have an adult's ability to assess risks.
This is not adult condescension; it is an established
scientific reality. While it's perfectly normal to feel fully mature,
independent and rational as a teenager, current research suggests that
brain and cognitive development isn't fully complete until the
The parts of the brain still under development at this time include
responsible for decision-making and risk-taking. This is the
fundamental, biological reason that teenagers are more prone than
all sorts of high-risk behavior: unprotected sex, alcohol
and drug abuse, smoking, reckless driving. Adults do these
too, but teenagers as a group are significantly poorer at
judging safety and risks.
So please don't be offended when we tell you that the choices you make
now may not seem as smart when you look back on them as an adult, even
though you feel wise and sensible now. (If you don't believe
ask your parents about all the dumb things they did as teenagers..)
And if you're tempted
to fire off an irate
email, excoriating us for pointing out hazards of oral
and insisting that you and your friends know it's perfectly
safe - don't bother. Save that letter, and read
when you're 25.