A child’s development, be it physical, mental or emotional, are pivotal to a multitude of factors in later life, including overall expectancy and mortality. Therefore, any factors which may lead to decreased health and well-being deserves careful consideration. Puberty is seen as an extremely important progressive stage which can have lifelong consequences. Many health concerns in all aspects of one’s life can be found to have manifestations rooted in this decisive stage. Furthermore, many characteristics and habits are established in adolescence, further solidifying its importance for a child’s life as a whole. Therefore, it is exceedingly important to recognize patterns which may be evident, their impact on the lives of adolescents, and the path to educating individuals on the importance of all aspects of health and well-being in this evolutionary point in life.
Over the last century, research trends have shown a marked alteration in the patterns of puberty and subsequent adolescent lifestyle and health. As rapid increases in technology and industrialization have swept the globe, society has observed some physical changes in its population. Herman-Giddens (2006) observed that statistically significant earlier onset of adolescent puberty has been recognized than previously reported. Many potential causes have been explored over the past century with hesitant relational outcomes. However, compelling evidence suggests that major shifts in dietary intake combined with an increasingly sedentary lifestyle have had major contributions.. As society has become more automated and decreasingly focused on physical activity, coupled with increased intake of processed and high caloric foods, equilibrium has been disturbed, resulting in far-reaching adolescent changes over the years. For example, earlier onset puberty has been linked to a slew of increased physical and mental health risks and mortality, which have detrimental implications for society as a whole (Cheng et al, 2010). These increased risks pose a new threat to all aspects of society, especially since these adolescents will grow up to be the future citizens and leaders of the world.
As earlier onset puberty alters the physical development of adolescents, their mental health and behavior also comes into question. These physical changes obviously beget successive transformation of the behavioral, intellectual and emotional consistency of today’s adolescents. Multifaceted changes are easily observable in classrooms across the globe, posing new challenges to administration, faculty and staff. As puberty experiences a rapid onset, so do the accompanying hormones causing it, resulting in adolescents attempting to cope with new experiences that curriculum fails to address at the same pace. Therefore, the emotional and behavioral climate of classrooms shift, calling for educators to continually reassess their approaches and curriculum to meet new demands. Since technology may be a major contributing factor in the trends of early onset puberty, limiting it wherever possible could aid in a reversal of this trend.
One method of reassessing curriculum to meet current needs is to limit personal use of technologies and using them to the advantage of the curriculum whenever possible. As technology rapidly advances and adolescents are exposed to it earlier in every generation, proper control and utilization by administration and staff is key to success in this new climate. Most adolescents today have some sort of telecommunication and/or entertainment devices on their person at all times. Therefore, in order to prevent distraction from curriculum by these technologies, precise and consistent guidelines for use must be established in the classroom. Firstly, administration and staff should exemplify the rules set forth by refraining from use of such technologies themselves in the presence of students. Strict, consistent and applicable guidelines must be set forth for students to follow in school, and appropriate consequences must be applied to ensure adherence to these rules. However, since it is undeniably difficult to limit such rapid progression of technology and consistently enforce such guidelines, technology should be incorporated into the curriculum wherever possible. Use of new technologies in the classroom could easily aid in retaining adolescent attention in the classroom by creating a more interactive and stimulating setting. Additionally, providing assignments via the internet or other technologically-based devices could drive adolescents to show fuller participation in curriculum.
Overall, it is evident that puberty has been occurring in adolescents earlier in every generation. With many compounding factors, it is difficult to truly understand what is creating this trend. Earlier onset puberty has been shown to have many differing impacts on all aspects of one’s life, which set the tone for the remainder of that individual’s life.. Puberty is a time of many different experiences and changes occurring at once, which can be frightening to an adolescent. Encouraging a healthier lifestyle through diet and exercise is the key to discovering if this is the true culprit behind this trend, or if other environmental or genetic factors are at play. Therefore, the more we understand about this important developmental stage, the better equipped we are as a global society to meet the demands of caring for our children’s physical, mental and emotional health.
- Cheng, G., Gerlach, S., Libuda, L., Kranz, S., Günther, A. B., Karaolis-Danckert, N., & Buyken, A. E. (2010). Diet Quality in Childhood Is Prospectively Associated with the Timing of Puberty but Not with Body Composition at Puberty Onset1,2. Journal Of Nutrition, 140(1), 95-102. doi:10.3945/jn.109.113365.
- Herman-Giddens, M. E. (2006). Recent data on pubertal milestones in United States children: the secular trend toward earlier development. International Journal Of Andrology, 29(1), 241-246. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2605.2005.00575.x.