Teens don’t exactly tell the truth in scientific surveys, especially on sensitive topics, according to a new research. These “mischievous responders”often fabricate some of their responses – and ultimately skew results – because it’s uncomfortable. But other times, it’s just plain funny.
Some kids may exaggerate sexual experiences and criminal activity, while others will outright lie about height and weight – saying they’re seven feet tall and weigh 400 pounds. In one survey, ninety-nine percent of 253 kids reported they had artificial limbs. They were only kidding.
Are we surprised? Many teens would rather not discuss certain topics with adults, so I doubt they’ll answer truthfully on something administered and interpreted by adults, even if it is anonymous.
“Part of you laughs about it, and the researcher side is terrified,” says assistant professor of educational psychology at the University of Illinois Joseph P. Robinson-Cimpian, who also coined the “mischievous responders’ term. “We have to do something about this. We can’t base research and policy and beliefs about these kids on faulty data.”
But 14-year-old Jackson Terry has his own concerns. From a teen perspective, he wants to know “Who’s going to know this? Who am I telling? This is kind of personal stuff.”