Teenagers; mood swinging, lazy, zombie couch potatoes, addicted to social media and Fornite, allergic to conversation, selfish hormonal time bombs, an alien species, emotional tornados with more identities than Walter Mitty!

The teenage years are without doubt a number of years made up of questioning, rebellion, learning and exploration for all the youth whose age number ends with teen and ones for parents whose existence is pushed towards the edge tiptoeing around the variety of moods cast upon the household by their offspring. 

Teenagers, the very same individuals who are better prepared for a Zombie apocalypse rather than their GCSE’s (but only if someone else does the leg work and packs the survival kit as too busy texting!).

Nocturnal creatures; they don’t want to go to bed at night and then surprise surprise, you cannot get them up in the morning for love nor money!  The days of trying to detach them from their duvet have well and truly flown, as the giggles are replaced with fierce renditions of ‘don’t make me angry you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry’ (this is an exaggeration as far too many words utilised - usually it’s just an incomprehensive string of muffled profanities enough to make you step away from the bad-tempered bulk in the bed!)

There are clothes left all over the bedroom floor, wet towels all over the bathroom, they lose things, plates fester under beds, glasses galore gather alongside mildewed cups, piles of crusty socks grow, bins spill over, …. and on and on.  Just some examples of the teenage traits and their smelly, dirty and disorganised habits that drive you insane and ones you cannot recall demonstrating when you were their age!

However, in many ways, the messy room is symbolic of the adolescent age beginning as early as 9 years, reaching a pinnacle at 13 and continuing throughout teenagedom.  But when does it and other annoying teenage activities stop?  Some experts argue that full intellectual maturity is not reached until the age of 27 and therefore all parents should be prepared for the long haul!

This and many other nasty behaviours are brought on by more growth changes consisting of internal confusion and external disarray.  Everything is changing both physically and emotionally for them.  Their emotions are being taken on the most challenging rollercoaster ride of their lives where they encounter evil red zombies taking over their faces, sprouting pus and no matter what spot product is purchased it fails to impress, a yo-yo of gaining and shedding puppy fat from nowhere, the growth of hair in strange places and the introduction to body odour in addition to many other not so nice bodily occurrences! 

Teenagers are thrust in to the most intense situations of their young lives whilst discovering several new and different emotions at this junction like heartbreak, anxiety, and peer pressure along the way.

The messy room represents their personal freedom, but to parents all over the land it feels like an insult to any domestic order and simply represents disrespect for a home they value. (Although admittedly I do express a similar personal freedom behind the closed doors of all my wardrobes not shared with the youth in the house!)

Unlike my good self, the teenager doesn’t care about being tidy as tidiness needs a sophisticated level of cognitive control, and the way the teenage brain is connected means that their planning is not very good. 

In fact, everything they do is linked with what is happening in their brains and they are under the influence of massive new hormonal messages, the teenager's brain is being reshaped, and reconstructed (there should be signage at the very least – DO NOT ENTER/DO NOT SPEAK/DO NOT MOVE!).   This is a massive construction project, unlike anything that occurs at any other time in life where things rarely flow smoothly, and surprise destinations thrive. However, this helps to explain their everchanging personality causing chaos and confusion not just to them but to everyone involved!

A teenage brain isn’t at that place where they're thinking about the effects of their behaviour on other people. Being organised is absolutely not on their priority list as they have other things to worry about (like what new weapons they can gain on Fornite!).

As for their sleep schedule there is a biological basis for this as their sleep patterns shift during the adolescent period. From puberty to the end of the teens, the circadian clock is actually programming them to go to sleep and wake up around three to four hours later than adults.

Now we know how important sleep is for consolidation of memory and learning and that sleep deprivation makes everyone emotionally impulsive and act differently (personally I am like a pissed off angry monster who growls at everything and everyone!).

Teenagers can get frustrated with situations and themselves, as a lot of things still aren’t fitting together in their brain.

The risk-taking behaviour and impulsivity they exhibit because they don’t have full access to their frontal lobes can cause mood swings and fuel conflict and anger. They will want to start to cut ties and become more independent, but we live in a very complex world, and no other teenage generation in history has had this much stimulation and exposure to the many potential stresses that arise from being online and social media.

Although the teenage brain is hungry for stimulation, there is an unprecedented amount of it in today’s world, maybe more than ever and the lack of access to their frontal lobes, allowing them to use judgement to say: “I’ve had enough” or “I need to stop and do something else” is still a weakness for them (no shit sherlock as who hasn’t been woken up during the early hours from angry mutterings brought on by an X Box or PlayStation?).

Studies have shown that while teenagers are better at learning to multitask than adults, distraction from smartphones and other devices can still impair learning, so they should switch them off completely when they’re trying to study (but this is like extracting an item that has been superglued on and not as easy to do as we hope!).

It’s a tough one being a teenager as one minute we are telling them to be more responsible and act like adults and then the next we encourage them to go out and enjoy themselves and make the most of being young!  It is mixed messages and perhaps we underestimate the pressures and hells of modern teenage life that contribute to the stages their brains are at and makes everything a thousand times worse than when we were at their stage of life?

However, it appears that we have unknowingly created a culture of suspended adulthood for our generation of teenagers for a number of reasons some because we are at fault of mollycoddling, cosseting them and not taking away the cotton wool covering when we should have.   The other must be social media and the way it has altered the youth of today. 

In my day if I got drunk and disorderly at a party no one filmed it but how things have changed; now it’s plastered all over Facebook, snap chat and any other app that allows us to create this generation of shaming others and swapping far too many private moments! 

Perhaps some of the failings of this generation are because of social media?

The internet and social media has a dark underbelly of hardcore pornography, body shaming and cyberbullying which must encroach on their wellbeing, while a relentless focus on high-achieving turns up the pressure in the classroom. By having social media there is a real pressure on how people should look and to make sure every picture is perfect and if you don’t then let’s send the image around the world and back again!

In moments of contemplation, I do often wonder about whether I would have been hooked to a phone not letting it out of my sight 24/7 addicted to it and all these bang-on trend apps if I were a teenager now instead of going out meeting friends, doing loads of things that didn’t involve panicking about whether there was Wi-Fi just relying and enjoying the face to face interaction with others and understanding what genuine friendship looked like.

The youth of today are much more fearful and maybe social media is a cause as they stay at school longer, live at home longer, and it appears the world looks very daunting from where they are sitting; confidence levels are deflated and even though they can use technology without much thought they lack communication skills.

One thing is for sure being a teenager is not where I would want to be, and I am so very glad I was a teenager when I was and not now.  So, the message has to be let’s cut them a bit of slack take off the rose-tinted glasses put on the virtual reality headset and remember that being a teenager is not easy and a teenage brain is just an adult brain with fewer miles on it!