Communication is a skill that can help people to establish and build relationships. The skill of listening is integral to good communication, and the Resource Center for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention says teens are often focused on expressing their ideas to the exclusion of listening effectively to the person with whom they are having a conversation. In addition to not knowing how to listen, teens may not listen effectively because of sleep deprivation, “tuning out” or multitasking.
The skill of listening involves non-verbals, active listening and neutrality. Non-verbals are behaviors on the part of a listener that indicate interest or inattention. A teen who habitually shrugs her shoulders and looks away from a speaker may not realize that her behavior indicates she is not listening. Active listening involves asking open-ended questions and reflecting the answers back to the speaker, while neutrality is waiting to express one’s own opinion to avoid shutting down the speaker. Teens who are poor listeners may have never learned these skills.
Sleep deprivation tends to be a fact of life among today’s teenagers, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Teens need at least eight and a half, and preferably a little over nine, hours of sleep, according to the NSF, but only 15 percent get the minimum amount on school nights. Teens also tend to have irregular sleep patterns, which makes their sleep less restful. Sleep deprivation negatively affects cognitive performance, according to an October 2007 article in Neuropsychiatric Diseases and Treatment. In particular, sleep deprivation decreases a person’s ability to pay attention and to remember things, such as conversations.
Teens may “tune out” parental messages for several reasons. One of the most common, according to the Family Education website, is that parents are inconsistent -- they say one thing and do another. A typical example of an inconsistent parent is one who makes empty threats or promises. When a parent says she will leave home forever if the children don’t stop arguing or lays down a rule that she doesn’t enforce, the teen learns that what the parent says means nothing and stops listening.
Multitasking -- the perceived ability to attend to several things at one time -- has become the norm in a generation of teens raised on electronic gadgetry, according to a March 2006 article in “Time” magazine. The article notes that 82 percent of teens are using computers by eighth grade and spending six or more hours a day online. Much of that time is spent multitasking -- for example, doing homework while listening to music and chatting online with friends. The more one multitasks, however, the less attention is paid to each individual task, so a teen who is online might be less attentive to a conversation because of multiple demands on the brain.
- Resource Center for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention: Skills for Youth
- Family Education: Being a Consistent Parent to Your Teen
- Neuropsychiatric Diseases and Treatment: Sleep Deprivation - Impact on Cognitive Performance
- National Sleep Foundation: Teens and Sleep
- Time: GenM - The Multitasking Generation
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