When is the last time you have taken an online quiz of some kind? Alright, when is the last time “BuzzFeed” offered a quiz to you on some social media site? You can figure out everything from what “Disney Princess” you are most like to how much of an introvert you are. Sometimes they’re funny, others silly, or even ridiculous. Yet, I think this new “wave” of quiz obsession could be bordering on dangerous.

It hit me today when I found a quiz that said it could figure out how “difficult” of a life I have had. The questions it asked were only based on my race, gender and sexuality. In the end it declared my life has been quite “easy.” The “answer” wasn’t what bothered me. My life may be easier than others. What I had a hard time with were the number of questions missing that would have helped them to come closer to an accurate response based on my life as a whole. It looked at one small slice of me instead of the larger picture.

“Quizzes” give our society easy access to “self-diagnose” our issues and more so I find it creating a culture where our teens are doing the same. A student of mine recently wondered if they were gay because of a quiz they took. “I had never thought I was, but now I am wondering if I should be?” Another student put some symptoms they were having from a sickness into “WebMD” and informed me they either had cancer or were about to have a stroke. The problem is of course teens are tooling around on the internet, not sharing their problems with “real” people and are now living in fear from what they discovered through checking boxes.

When we move from figuring out which “Avenger” we are to something more serious there is a problem, for many times these are not “scientific” quizzes based on anything of substance. Unfortunately, the overuse of the “quiz” without anything real to substantiate it, also negates those that are helpful. There are personality and team tests that actually help us work and understand people more clearly. These mechanisms are based in research and analytics.

So what’s the problem, really?

The issue is we can find information anywhere at anytime and then tell no one our thoughts. Even a couple of years ago our students were mostly tied to a computer to “surf the web,” now they are laying in bed until 3 AM taking quizzes to figure out what’s “wrong” with them. They can read it in isolation, make an opinion about themselves based on nothing that’s “true” and then revolve their lives around that.

In the sea of “issues” we are wading through with students educating them about “online quiz taking” may seem small. However, it speaks to something deeper in helping our students forming their identity. I literally had a youth who recently deemed themselves “stupid” because of an online IQ test, even though they are a straight A student. Teens are vulnerable to opinion, especially ones they can form about themselves. We MUST help them know these little tests may not even be accurate. However, more importantly, they can’t make declarations about themselves just because of some boxes they checked. We as people are far more complex than anything a quiz can tell us about ourselves.

What do you think? Online quizzes (not the silly ones) helpful or harmful?