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Why Are Teenagers Lazy?

author image Martin Malcolm
British writer Martin Malcolm specializes in children's nonfiction. His books include "A Giant in Ancient Egypt" and "Poetry By Numbers." His schoolkids' campaign for the Red Cross won the 2008 Charity Award. A qualified teacher, he has written for the BBC and MTV. He holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of London.
Why Are Teenagers Lazy?
A close-up of a sleeping teenager. Photo Credit Vladimir Jovanovic/iStock/Getty Images

Some days, it seems the only thing teenagers love more than their cell phones is staying in bed. But are they a "lazy, unaware and apathetic" Generation Z, as The Huffington Post put it in 2013? If it's tough getting your teen to take an interest in schoolwork, community life or the chores, take heart. Your teen's behavior is a natural part of growing up. Understand the causes and you'll maybe even forgive those lost hours under the duvet.

Squeezed Schedules

You know all about juggling work and home pressures, but teens are still learning how to manage their time and their demanding high-school schedules. Parents have plenty of real-life experience of getting organized. It's hardly surprising teenagers find it hard to keep up. According to "Psychology Today" teen guru Dr. Carl Pickhardt, "If parents had as much to do and think about as their teenager, sometimes they might feel like acting 'lazy' too."

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Poor Prioritizing

If you've been nagging your teen to tidy his room, only to find he's spent the afternoon online, messaging friends and tinkering with a school assignment, it's easy to call this laziness. He might call it multi-tasking. At least he shows no lack of energy in following his own interests. Maybe the problem is his priorities just don't fit with yours. Try to take a relaxed view. Multi-tasking is a valuable skill and, in time with the proper guidance, he'll learn to prioritize, too.

Brain Changes

A 2003 study by neuroscientist James Bjork suggests teenage brains are still to develop the key structures that deal with motivation. Bjork compared MRI scans of teenage and young adult brains and says his discoveries explain why teens find it hard to stick to routine tasks but are ready to take big risks for what look like easy rewards. His theory does have its critics. Harvard-educated psychologist Dr. Robert Epstein dismisses the "teen brain" as "a myth."

Body Clock

The surging hormones of puberty affect teenage sleeping patterns, typically prompting adolescents to stay up late and sleep longer in the morning. Teens can then end up sleep-deprived, cranky and unmotivated. A 2005 study by Northwestern University Illinois argues there is an "epidemic" of teenage sleep deprivation. It suggests we take account of the natural, "in-born" adolescent sleep cycle by scheduling tasks for teenagers in the afternoons, when they work best.

Screen Time

Teens spend a lot of time with electronic media. They can end up glued to the couch by a non-stop diet of TV, text messaging and the Internet. Previous generations tended to have more active and outdoor lifestyles. A 2011 report from the American Association of Pediatrics even suggests "Facebook Depression" can result from so much screen time, interfering with "homework, sleep and physical activity." Encourage teens to take regular screen breaks and do something active.

Growth Spurts

One moment you're taller than your child, then seemingly all at once, your child is towering over you. Teenagers often experience very swift "growth spurts" during adolescence. The body chemicals that promote this swift growth are secreted during sleep and this helps to explain why teenagers need more sleep than either children or adults.

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