Teens need to find a way to fit in.

Why Do Teenagers Think It Is Not Cool to Be Smart?

by Leyla Norman

Some, but not all, teenagers think that it is simply not possible for a smart person to be cool. Teens' views of what is cool often come from the media, and negative perceptions of intelligence come in part from constant glorified news coverage of young celebrities' behavioral mishaps. Bombarded with this kind of view of how they should act to fit in, teenagers sometimes hide their intelligence in favor of blending in with the crowd.

Brain Development

Peer approval is something the teen brain craves.Teens begin to perceive themselves as their peers do, and they wonder what others think of them. Their brains develop mainly in the area of abstract thinking, and their social anxiety levels increase as this happens, according to a 2004 article in the journal "Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences" cited on LiveScience.com.

Need for Friends

Teenagers also begin to look beyond home for acceptance and security. It is important to them that they find a place where they can stand in the world, especially in relation to their friends, says Anthony E Wolf, Ph.D., author of “Get Out of My Life,” as cited on ParentingTeensOnline.com. Peer pressure is a fact of life for adults and teens alike. Teens want to find people their own age with whom they can find camaraderie and friendship. If the people around them act a certain way, then they are likely to follow suit just to be accepted, whether it is positive or negative.

Role Models

Teens look to role models in their lives to show them how to live. A study by the Barna Group asked teenagers between 13 and 17 years old who their role models were. Although parents were not allowed as answers to this question, 37 percent of the participating teens identified relatives as their role models. This was followed by teachers and coaches, friends and religious leaders they knew personally. While people they know are usually the role models for teens, they are still affected by what they see is valued in the media.

The Media

The Internet and television have made news of young stars' behavioral problems part of America's cultural identity, notes writer Teri Brown at DisneyFamily.com. Very little coverage is given to teenagers who are smart in comparison. When teens see and hear that little attention is paid to people who are intelligent, they may choose to cover up their smarts.

Image Vs. Identity

Yvonne Clark, writing for SelfGrowth.com, offers a helpful tip for parents of teenagers dealing with peer pressure and the need to fit in: help your teen learn to identify the difference between expressions of youth culture or image and his personal identity. When your child is comfortable with who he is as an intelligent individual, he can better balance his need to fit in with expressing his smarts and being proud of them.

About the Author

Leyla Norman has been a writer since 2008 and is a certified English as a second language teacher. She also has a master's degree in development studies and a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology.

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