Are Adolescents Lazy?

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," May 19, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Kids and chores just don't mix, as the Coasters said, but a new study says it's not their fault, the little dears. Adolescents aren't lazy. They just have cognitive limitations.

In fact, they aren't fully developed to multitask until 16 or 17 or 18 or into their 20's, I guess.

I'm joined now by Dr. Eric Braverman, the author of "The Edge Effect," and a memory specialist.

The big question doctor: Why can't adolescents do two things at once?

ERIC BRAVERMAN, AUTHOR, "THE EDGE EFFECT": Teenagers have an adult body and a child's brain. They just don't develop working memory and logic and planning and reasoning until they're about 17 years old.

GIBSON: Yes, but they can do two goofy things at once. Why can't they do two constructive things at once?

BRAVERMAN: They don't have that development.

GIBSON: You're cutting them a little slack, Doctor. Come on now. If these kids were thrust into some primitive culture or agrarian culture, where they had to work for a living, where everything wasn't handed to them, they had to actually struggle to stay alive, they would do it.

BRAVERMAN: They would develop sooner because they didn't have all the distractions of TV, video games, drugs that damage their memory and their judgment. They wouldn't have as much ADD (search).

GIBSON: Come on.

BRAVERMAN: We have a different society. We have brain health checkups.

GIBSON: How about pure willfulness?

BRAVERMAN: Willfulness depends on the resources, about the diet, the right diet. You're not exposed to commercials about Viagra (search). And you're not exposed to smoking and all sorts of pollutants.

We do not have the same healthy brains of other societies.

GIBSON: Wait a minute.

BRAVERMAN: We need brain health checkups for all our kids.

GIBSON: You're telling me these kids that have cell phones and computers and iPods (search) and drive cars and are given allowances by their parents — far in excess of what they could make going out and earning money — and they can't do simple work to earn their keep, that they're not just lazy little ingrates?

BRAVERMAN: They can work. But they can't reason the consequences. They do not have the moral development to make the right choices.

GIBSON: Because nobody has put the hammer down on them?

BRAVERMAN: That's why they're using steroids. It's because there are too many choices and that our brains are developing differently in this society. That's why every kid in America needs a brain checkup.

GIBSON: But isn't this an adult's fault? An adult should be saying, "We're taking those things away. We're not going to let you do those things. You can't watch that stuff. You're going to have to shut up and sit down and do what you're supposed to do."

BRAVERMAN: Well, to some degree that's true. In my book I give parents education. And that's why we need to study parenting in this new age as much as we study our work, how to be a doctor, how to be a newscaster. We have to study that kids do not have certain moral ability of choices, and we have to make the choices.

GIBSON: OK. Now there are parents out there saying, "All right. Let's just say I've screwed up and I have to accept what you say. When do they come out of it?"

BRAVERMAN: Well, they come out of it usually after adolescence when the hormones basically do not have as much impact on the brain.

GIBSON: Thirty?

BRAVERMAN: Usually by...

GIBSON: By 25?

BRAVERMAN: By 20 years old they develop more moral reasoning, multitasking, connect the dots between consequences, know that drugs really can hurt you.

And every kid in memory needs a memory checkup, according to this article. And I agree with that. And we need to have a brain health checkup so that we can lead kids to a better brain well-being. And this relates to the entire health problem of our teenagers: obesity, drugs, steroids, the works.

GIBSON: They can't remember that those things are bad for them. Eric Braverman. Dr. Braverman, thank you very much. The book is "The Edge Effect." Thank you, Doctor.

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