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Early or late adolescence? Teen's development phase determines susceptibility to influence

N owadays, adolescents are supposedly 'older and wiser' when it comes to media than previous generations. But does this mean they're able to handle shocking television or film content, without experiencing potentially harmful effects?

Research that was carried out by NICAM's Science Committee shows that the age rating system shouldn't take into account media consumption by teenagers, but rather, what development phase they are in.

The 4 most important insights:

  1. More use of media does not necessarily lead to more wisdom about media among adolescents.
  2. Adolescents' susceptibility to influence goes hand in hand with the development phase that they are in. Teenagers are more susceptible to social influence in early adolescence than in late adolescence. Furthermore, teenagers in the early adolescent phase are still impulsive and tend to pursue risk behaviour more than other age groups.
  3. Despite the fact that teenagers in late adolescence are less suggestible, they too can can be harmed by intense or shocking content, such as violent or pornographic imagery.
  4. It differs per child and depends on their development when the transition from early to late adolescence takes place. Research into the influencing of adolescents therefore tends to use the transition from the first to second half of middle school as a general turning point. Adolescents will then be approximately 13 to 16 years old.

What did we use these insights for?

This research contributed to Kijkwijzer's nuancing of its age categories. By using two ages for early adolescence (12 and 14 years old) as well as late adolescence (16 and 18 years old), new ratings will be more in line with with adolescents' development.

About this research

NICAM's Science Committee carried out systematic research based on leading scientific literature about media use, development phases and social influencing of adolescents.

Want to read more?

+ Parents call for nuanced age classification for adolescents

Published: May 12 2020