The Real Reason(s) Teens Are Forgetful

If you teach teenagers (or maybe you have/had one at home), you know that they can be…well, forgetful. When you ask if they need something, they adamantly say no, but suddenly they remember they need to be somewhere in five minutes/they have a paper due tomorrow morning/they need money for a school trip and it is due in an hour/they’re going to be out tomorrow. Sound familiar? Well, don’t worry – you’re not the only one noticing this!

As it turns out, this forgetfulness is not just because they want to drive you (and everyone else?) nuts – there are a lot of changes going on in teenaged brains that may be causing this – and it can last into the college years. Mia MacMeekin and David Wilcox have teamed up to create an awesome infographic that takes a look at why teens forget so much, a bit of the science behind it, and some ideas on how you can help. It’s a great little guide for bringing some order and organization into your classroom filled with teenagers, but also a great reminder that they aren’t just trying to drive you up a wall (for those times when you might want to strangle them!).

Why Are Teenagers So Forgetful?

The Science

  • Changes occur in three areas of the brain during the teenage years – the cerebellum, the prefrontal cortex, and the limbic cortex
  • These changes are referred to as ‘blossoming’ (age 11-14) and ‘pruning’ (age 14-25)
  • The prefrontal cortex controls things like: alertness, attention, planning, working memory, and regulation of social behavior
  • The cerebellum controls things like: balance, motor coordination, recognition of social cues
  • The limbic cortex controls things like: emotion, attention, memory, and emotions


So What Happens?

  • The teenage years are often known as the ‘use it or lose it’ years due to this synaptic pruning
  • The changes in the brain impact memory and attention
  • This brain ‘reorganization’ is complex, and adds extra strain on the teenager’s brain
  • Teen brains are losing about 30,000 connections per second
  • A teenager’s brain needs to reconnect with information it once found easy to locate
  • The circadian shift impacts sleep and information retention


What Can You Do?

  • Love, forgive, encourage
  • Experiment – what works for one teen may not work for another, so try a number of avenues
  • Let them take healthy risks
  • Help create systems and routines
  • Create order
  • Be actively involved
  • Teens need at least 9.5 hours of sleep per night
  • Acknowledge wins, build on losses, allow natural consequences
  • Minimise ‘business’
  • Let them be emotional



Thumbnail image via.