12 Years: A Reflection on What Teens Have Taught Me

I have spent the past 12 years serving youth through various roles with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. And tomorrow, Friday December 12th, 2014 is my last day.

199231_1929851528981_4483310_nDuring the weeks leading up to this day I have caught myself reminiscing about my experiences over the past 12 years. I reflect on how I started at a local Club in Holland, hired as a part-time summer program assistant. I reflected on the over 500 hours of training I have facilitated for youth workers across the country. I think about all the amazing teens I have had the privilege to get to know and connect with. I look at my kids, and hope they grow up to resemble the many qualities, passions and talents that David, Miguel, Allie, Kiana, Yousif, Jessie and DeQuan embody.

Most of all, I think about the passion that has grown inside of me for teens today. I have come to be fascinated by teens, encouraged by teens and at times confused by teens. But most of all I have come to have a great respect for them today.

Here are just a few things I have learned about teens over the last 12 years.

Teens are at a point in their life where they are trying to find themselves. They are searching for identity and to be known. If you, as a caring adult in their life, offer praise and recognition towards the positive choices they are making, you can help them find a sense of self.

Teens most often go with the crowd, no matter how much they want to be their own person. I have seen this time and time again both for positive and negative. Help the teens in your life find a group of peers with common interests that are making good choices.

540060_10101917500530384_1451115576_nTeens will remember you. They will remember how you treated them, what you talked about, and most importantly how you made them feel. Treat teens with respect and like they are the greatest person in the world. I will never forget an experience I had in 2012 at our National teen leadership conference. There were over 1,500 teens in attendance, and I had only interacted with a few of them prior to that weekend. There was one group of teens from Oakland County Michigan, with whom I had the privilege to interact with a few times when I had visited their Club and met them at a previous conference. I will never forget the first time I saw them at this National event. I came around a corner and the whole group of teens ran to me and surrounded me with a huge group hug. I did not expect them to remember who I was, let alone embrace me in this fashion.

Teens can take a while to realize they are making the wrong choices. Over my 12 years as a youth worker I have heard it often said that we are like farmers planting the seed. We may not see the fruits of our labor at first. I can still remember teens I worked with at the Local Boys & Girls Clubs. I spent countless hours each week for years trying to guide them to make positive choices. Only to be left disappointed time and time again. But years later I have seen fruits of my labor. I have heard stories and seen glimpses of the seeds that we had planted years before through teens growing up and making positive choices for their lives.

Teens do not experience fear the same way adults do. I am not saying they are absent of fear, but often the lack of life experiences is a blessing that allows them to excel. I have met countless teens who have seen a justice issue and taken steps to stop it. I have met teens who have started their own non-profits, businesses, engaged with national leaders and raised thousands of dollars to help others when they themselves have had little. I think we as adults often second guess ourselves or have been told “no” too many times. It hinders us from even trying at times. I think we can learn a lot from teens.

There are a lot of GREAT adults who truly CARE about teens. In recent years I have 381353_327985800548032_1383409725_nfound my passion to be training and building up youth workers to help guide teens to realize the potential they have to make a difference in their own lives and in the lives of those around them. At every corner I turn I find adults who are committed, focused and having huge impact on the teens they serve. Staff like Hashira, Laurie, Ray, Liza, LaKetta, Mike, Lori, Gabe, Molly, Kristin and Johnny just to name a few.

These are just a few of the many things I have learned about teens over the last 12 years and I cannot wait to see where my journey takes me next and what I will learn about teens next.

What have you learned about teens as a youth worker, parent, teacher, coach or youth minister?

What Teens are Saying about the New Hunger Games Movie

If you work with teens, have a teen or have interacted with a teen at your local fast food restaurant in the last few years, you’ve probably heard about The Hunger Games.

For those of you who have been living without cable, internet or human interaction since 2012, here is a brief synopsis. The Hunger Games is a series of 3 novels and is the latest science fiction series that has captured the minds of teens and young adults. In 2012 the popular novels were turned into a series of movies starring Jennifer Lawrence as the main character.

The first film, The Hunger Games, was released in March of 2012 and brought in $152.5 million it’s opening weekend. The second film in the series, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was released in November of 2013 and set records for the biggest November opening weekend and biggest three and five-day Thanksgiving box-office totals.

mockingjayThe third installment in the series, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, debuted last weekend (November 21st, 2014) to the excitement of teens everywhere. I have to admit, I am a little excited to see it as well.

In an effort to gain a better understanding of why tweens and teens enjoy The Hunger Games series, I asked several tween/teens who saw the movie opening weekend to provide me with a brief review.

I asked each tween/teen to answer the following questions:

  • On a scale of 1 to 5 Mockinjay pins (A key symbol in the books and movies) how would she rate the movie overall?
  • General reaction to the movie: Did they enjoy it, how does it fit/flow with the other films?
  • Why did they like the movie specifically compared to other movies?
  • Why is the movie appealing to teens specifically and any other thoughts they might want to share.

Being tweens and teens, not all of them answered each of the questions. Go figure. I made basic changes to grammar but overall left the comments as said. Never-the-less, here is what they had to say about The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1.

Ava age 12: I would rate the movie a 5 out of 5 Mockingjay Pins. I really enjoyed it, although it was a little bit violent.  I thought that The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was the best but Mockingjay part 1 was my 2nd favorite. The movie is appealing to teens because of all the romance and drama. Also the action. Other thoughts: the end with Peeta scared me ALOT I almost had a heart attack but afterwards I was okay.

Daniel age 16: I would give it a 4 out of 5 Mockingjay Pins. I enjoyed it and it flowed mockingjay pinrelatively well with the other movies in the series. It pretty well parallel with everything that happened in the book. Although it’s a stretch, I believe the reason why these movies are so popular is because in some instances, the events in the movie could really occur.

Lily age 12 : I would rate MockingJay a Five out of Five. I would rate it this because it was very intense and filled with action, drama, and romance. I really enjoyed seeing this movie, as it was a little different from the other movies since it was the first in the series that didn’t involve a hunger games competition. But still fit very well with the other movies in the series.

One thing that I liked about this movie was how different they made the characters. Everyone in the movie is a whole new person compared to the previous movies. This is because most of the characters are mad about all of the terrible things that the capital is doing, and those emotions are turning them into a whole new person. This movie is appealing to teens because of the cliff hangers and intensity levels that it beholds. Also because of the classic romance that every teen can’t get enough of.

Kaylee age 13: Based on the contextual features of the movie and book, on a scale 1 to 5 worth of Mockingjay Pins, I give the movie The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 a 4. I liked the fact that its different from the first two movies in the saga, where there are no games involved. I also liked how every event was spaced out nicely, and that the movie interacted with more than the main people involved in the story. The movie was sewn together well with the book, although you can’t tell what parts and pieces weren’t incorporated without Mockingjay part 2.

The one thing that riles me is the lack of action. There was quite a lot, but all the speeches and videos interfered with it, and hoaxed myself to think differently. This movie would suit teens because the books were written for YA readers, and the footage would grasp mostly teen girls, as the main character being a strong, daring girl. Overall, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay part 1 was a modest movie, and is a desirable movie to watch.

Morgan 12: I give The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 4.5 pins. It was fantastic and I think it flowed very well with the other books/movies. I liked it compared to the other movies in the series because it followed the plot of the book very well and it had a lot of action. I think it appeals to teens specifically because it’s like dystopian with romance and also it’s like rebellious and things like that, and I just thought overall it was very good.

jennifer lClosing Thoughts: Often teens gravitate to certain movies or music because it expresses feelings they are having but don’t know how to vocalize yet. If your teen is talking about The Hunger Games or another movie, watch it with them, take them to see it or rent it yourself and then engage in a conversation with them about why they liked the movie. What aspects of the plot they felt related to their life or what characters in the movie they saw themselves as. You could be offered a great glimpse into your teenagers life and how they see the world and how they feel the world views them.

If you have a teen who saw the movie or is seeing the movie and they would like to share their review based on the questions above, feel free to connect with me via email or twitter (@daverozman).

How to Build Positive Relationships with Teens Today: Tips from Teens

The goal of my blog is to help adults understand teens today in order to build positive relationships and assist them in navigating the crazy, unpredictable, emotional time we call adolescents.

I like to engage teens in the conversation for most topics and discussions rather than come at it from the point of view of a bunch of adults sitting in a room assuming we know everything there is to know about teens today.

With this in mind, I recently asked a group of teens the following question:

How can an adult (teachers, coach, parent, teacher, youth minister etc.) build a positive relationship with a teen today?

adult and teenTo avoid feeling like the picture above, follow the tips provided by teens below regarding how to build a positive relationship with teens today:

  • “Adults need to have empathy and try to understand what it is like to be a teen today. Don’t assume everything is the same as it was 10 or 20 years ago when they were teens.”
  • “I think in order to form relationships with teens, adults need to give up some of their power. Adults need to show that just because they are older doesn’t mean that the teen and the adult can’t be “equals,” they need to trust the teens, and trust them a lot. And if something does go wrong the adult needs to walk through the situation and talk about what the teen needs to improve on. Adults shouldn’t be using their age or job as a source of power, we’re all human, we all make mistakes and everyone comes from different backgrounds. Adults should show respect to teens and vice versa.”
  • “Simply be honest and put yourself out there. Don’t sugarcoat things to the teens and be honest. Honesty and being open has always been the most appealing traits that I see in counselors/mentors when consulting one.”
  • “I think the best way is to understand that neither the adult nor teen are better than each other. Also, they need to be accepting that both people make mistakes.”
  • “The adult must be willing to listen to what the teen has to say. Also, the adult must be able to create safe boundaries. Then, the teacher or advisor should spend time with the teen on a weekly basis, this will help the teen become more comfortable with the advisor making it easier for them to open up with the adult.”
  • “the easiest way to communicate with the teen. Teens want someone they can open up to. It is relaxing. They can proceed to talk with the teen without becoming to formal, as we still are younger. It helps the most when they can personally relate to something you are going through or need help with. It gives off a comfortable vibe and the teen is more likely to open up.”
  • “I believe the best way for a positive relationship between teens and adults would be for their to be trust and a lack of judgment coming from the adult. Teens need someone to trust with their problems and need to know there is no judgement afterward.”

I want to reiterate that the statements above are direct quotes from teens when asked the question, “how can an adult build a positive relationship with a teen today?”

One point I would make after reviewing this list, is to take a moment and think about the questions from the teens perspective. For example, we read the statement “adults need to give up some of their power” from one of the teens. That statement causes the hairs on the back of our necks begin to stand as we say, “but I am the parent, the teacher the coach and you are the child.”

When I speak with teens I do not get the sense that they want us to abandon our authority and just be their friend. What I hear them saying is include me and ask me my opinion. Let me teach you something that I enjoy or let me help solve a problem. Often I see adults who only lecture and never listen or only tell and never ask. I am not saying you need to give all decision-making power to the teen, but including them in the process can go a long way in building a relationship with them.

What tips do you have for building positive relationships with a teen today?

YouTube’s Growing Influence on Teens

I want you to think back to when you were a teen. What celebrities were most influential on your life?

My guess is that it would be an actor/actress from your favorite TV show or movie, a player on your favorite sports team or a musician in a band. Personally I was a huge fan of Sylvester Stallone and Dennis Rodman. Let me clarify that I was a fan of pre-freak-show Rodman when he was with the Detroit Pistons and they won back-to-back championships.

Looking back, my infatuation with these celebrities was wrapped up in the character they rockyplayed or the effort they displayed and less about who they were. I idolized Sylvester Stallone’s character Rocky. I was drawn in by the dedication, determination and will he displayed. I mirrored my style of play on the basketball court after Rodman’s. Diving for loose balls and recklessly going up for rebounds against bigger guys. That was the sum of what I knew of them, yet they were powerfully influential on my life.

Teens today want more. For someone to have influence on them they want to know their story, know they have things in common and feel that that person, in-part, represents their own aspirations in life. I believe this is true for two reasons.

One, teens have greater access to information than I did when I was a teen. They have the ability like never before to find out more about a celebrity beyond what they see on stage or the big screen. Finding out more can make the teen more or less interested in that person. If I would have known some things about Rodman back when I was a teen I may not have held him in such high regard.

Two, teens today have a strong desire for authenticity and affinity. To truly know someone else and feel connected to others. If they learn that they have similar interests and passions of a celebrity they like, the more they will feel connected to that  person. And ultimately that celebrity will begin to be influential on them.

With today’s teens desires to connect with others and the rise of the internet, it comes as no surprise then that YouTube personalities (A person or group that gains widespread recognition on the internet and beyond for videos they post on YouTube) are rising in the ranks of celebrities who are influential to teens today.

youtube-stars-shine-brightestIf you are not familiar with YouTube channels, here is a quick snapshot. Individuals and or groups create videos of varying lengths (sometimes multiple videos each day) on all sorts of topics from their daily life, dance, music, beauty/fashion tips, complete randomness,  or their own mini-shows. My kids personally love Kid Snippets videos where kids do the voice-overs for adults acting out situations. They are pretty funny. Some channels build a solid following with millions of subscribers and views on their videos.

Personally I have stumbled upon entertaining channels myself and before I knew it I had viewed a dozen videos by the same creator. I even found myself checking back for new content days later. Teens are digital natives and big users of YouTube and they are doing the same thing. For instance, a recent survey by Variety magazine “found the five most influential figures among Americans ages 13-18 are all YouTube celebrities,” not your traditional movie actors or actresses.

I asked Leo, a teen from southern California, to give me his thoughts on YouTube Celebrities being influential on teens today. Here are his thoughts:

In my opinion, I believe that they are influential and popular because they are associated with comedy, youth and consistency. YouTube stars tend to post content frequently, therefore gaining a much greater audience than say a mainstream actor who only comes out in a movie once or twice a year.

Most of the mainstream media actors do not have the interaction that the YouTube stars have due to the fact that they have no form of communication with their fans other than their social media. Even then they’re very limited towards what they can say. On the other hand, YouTube stars have the option of interacting with their audience through the form of a video which they can post at any time they wish. They have the liberty of voicing their opinion on their channel.

If you compare Felix Kjellberg (a Swedish video game commentator on YouTube known as PewDiePie) to Jennifer Lawrence, Felix posts content every single day. About two videos and each ranging about 7-10 minutes long. That has led to his HUGE success now with over 31 Million subscribers. Therefore he has a better interaction with his fan base community. Jennifer Lawrence on the other hand comes out in a hit movie every couple of months for about 2 hours. This amount of content and interaction plays big role because unlike Jennifer, Felix has public exposure everyday which keeps him very relevant in the media. What big celebrities struggle with is the fact that they cannot stay very relevant in the media. Right after a big movie or TV show is released, they just gradually lose the interests of the public.

If you still do not think teens are being influenced by YouTube stars, look at the fact the bethany-mota-at-teen-choice-awards-2014-in-los-angeles_21Teen Choice awards now have a category to recognize Web Stars. Bethany Mota and Tyler Oakley took home the 2014 honors for Web Star Female and Male by the way. Side Note: Bethany is also on the current season of Dancing with the Stars. Which leads to a whole other conversation around brands using YouTube Celebrities to influence teens for their brand. We will save that for another time.

Youth Worker and Parent Tips:

  • Learn who some of the popular YouTube celebrities are. Common Sense Media has an article titled 10 YouTube Stars Your Kids Love that i recommend you start with.
  • Use YouTube to create a common connection with your teen(s). Find a YouTube channel that you and your teen(s) both enjoy and is appropriate for their age and watch the videos together. Like I mentioned earlier my kids, who are not teens yet, enjoy Kid Snippets and we occasionally watch them together.
  • Have a discussion with your teen(s) about their favorite YouTube channels, why they like those channels and what is it about the videos that connects with them. You might learn something about your teen that you did not know or identify opportunities for you to connect better with them.

Teens Actually Look Forward to School

At the beginning of 2014 I promised to write more posts focusing on the positive aspects of teens. I think teens are great but often the media portrays them as running wild, trying the latest dangerous fads all while being ungrateful towards the adults in their lives.

I recently asked teens a simple questions, what are they looking forward to most about this school year? Indeed I did get a couple of responses about it being their senior year and they can’t wait until it is over, but those were clearly in the minority. Overall I received very positive responses and I wanted to share them with you:

  • “As a senior I get to intern for three hours two days a week in a second grade classroom. Since I want to teach those are the best days of my week!”
  • “I am looking forward to working with my classmates and to prepare for our different post high school opportunities. I want to work hard but also make the most of my senior year.”
  • “This year I am a part of senior walk, which is a fun experience at my school highschoolwere seniors perform different community service projects throughout their year. So I’m very excited about that! Other than that I’m looking forward to making the best of my last year as a high school student. I am going to get involved in my schools events as well as at the boys and girls club events as much as possible.”
  • This year I am mostly excited about the classes I am taking and starting my search for colleges. Since I am a junior at my high school, I have some time, but it’s never too early to start looking at colleges!
  • A closer relationship with God! Also to inspire more people to become more! Finally getting involved more!
  • This year I’m a senior!! I am most exited and looking forward to sports (fall cross-country and spring baseball) and applying to colleges. I am also really excited for my capstone project because I have been working on it for over a year now.”
  • I am looking forward to re-prioritizing my life and maximizing my potential! I have the power to put recognition to my name and I will seek to do it!
  • Hanging out with friends, planning my future, and become more mature is what I’m looking forward to.

Not all teens hate school. Take time to build relationships with the teens you work with and understand their aspirations for this school year. Doing so will allow you to speak into their life, encourage them and provide the guidance and assistance they need.

Meet the Incoming High School Freshman Class

I desire for parents and youth workers to connect with and engage teens in order to help them navigate life and make positive choices. From personal experience, I have found that being able to understand teens – where they are coming from and what they are dealing with – greatly helps. When I speak and write about teen culture, I do so with the purpose of helping parents and youth workers gain insight into the world of teens today.

I love it when I find resources that align with these goals. One of my favorite resources is the annual Beloit Mindset List. “Each August since 1998, Beloit College in Beloit, Wis., has released the Beloit College Mindset List, providing a look at the cultural touchstones and experiences that have shaped the worldview of students entering colleges and universities in the fall.” It’s initial purpose was to provide insight to professors regarding incoming students to help them better relate and connect. Love it.

Here are some highlights from Beloit Mindset List for the Class of 2018:

  • Students heading into their first year of college this year were generally born in 1996.
  • Among those who have never been alive in their lifetime are Tupac Shakur, JonBenet Ramsey, Carl Sagan, and Tiny Tim.
  • leslie_ackerman96During their initial weeks of kindergarten, they were upset by endlessly repeated images of planes blasting into the World Trade Center.
  • Women have always been dribbling, and occasionally dunking, in the WNBA.
  • Parents have always been able to rely on a ratings system to judge violence on TV.
  • Everybody has always Loved Raymond.

I thought it would be fun to think of a few cultural touchstones related to the incoming high school freshman:

  • Students heading into their first year of high school this year were generally born in 2000.
  • They never had to worry about Y2K.
  • Microsoft has always produced gaming systems. The 1st Xbox was released in 2001.
  • They have only seen Boy Meets World in reruns. The final episode aired in May of 2000.
  • Robert Downey Jr. has always been Ironman. Not Charlie Chaplin, a role that earned him an Academy Award nomination in 1992, or Wayne Gale from Natural Born Killers.senior_class_of_2018_blue_round_stickers-r6935b37067374bbeb57bccd1cbcfe8fa_v9waf_8byvr_324
  • They have always purchased music from iTunes (debuted in 2003) to listen to on their iPod (introduced in 2001).
  • For the majority of their lives, the US has had troops engaged in combat in both Afghanistan and Iraq, making roadside bombs and RPGs common terminology for this generation.
  • “Say My Name” by Destiny’s Child, “The Thong Song” by Sisco and “Bye Bye Bye” by N’Sync were in the top songs on the Billboard charts in 2000. Sorry if you now have one of those songs stuck in your head.
  • The Oxford English Dictionary has always been available online (Launched on March 14, 2000).

What experiences or cultural moments would you add to the list?

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Teen Trends: Summer of 2014

Did you spend your summer Vamping or watching a full season of a TV show in one sitting? Or are you taking the time to record a video of yourself doing some crazy stunt to post on YouTube? Maybe these don’t occupy your time, but for many teens, this is what has captivated their summer.

Let’s breakdown some of the Current Trends in Teen Culture.

Vamping: A fun new way to say “I stayed up late.” Teens staying up into the wee hours of vampingthe night surfing the internet, texting or playing video games is not a new trend. But taking a picture of your self and tagging it with #Vamping is. Read more about teens, sleep deprivation and Vamping in this New York Times Article.

“Fire Challenge” -Teens Set themselves on Fire: Videos have been on YouTube for several years showing teens putting a flammable liquid on themselves and then lighting it. In the past I have seen this viral video stunt done in small amounts. A dab on the arm or hand that is quickly extinguished. This summer the Fire Challenge gained popularity with oitnbteens dousing themselves in accelerant and lighting it. Luckily, out of the teens I spoke with, more have seen these videos than have actually partaken in the stunt.

Binge Watching Netflix:When I asked a group of teens what recent trends they have seen, unanimously they mentioned watching Netflix. Not just watching a movie or a TV show here or there. But sitting down and watching full seasons of a TV show in a short amount of time. Often in one or two nights. The most popular show teens have been binge watching on Netflix, Orange is the New Black.

hookahHookah Smoking: Recent studies suggest 1 in 5 teens have smoked Hookah (essentially a water pipe that is used to smoke specially made tobacco) in the last year. I shared this statistic with a group of teens and asked them if it sounded accurate. They responded with the following statements:

  • Everyone around here does it all the time! It’s like a hobby for some teens.”
  • It is very popular in my area. Just about everyone does it.”
  • “I have seen a lot of people in the area use Hookah pens. According to my knowledge they use it because it is water vapor and not real smoke yet it still contains nicotine/tobacco products. They also use it since it is cheap.”

The Positive: When I read articles that are labeled “Dangerous New Teen Trend,” or “Parents Be Aware of the Crazy Stuff your Teen is Doing,” I get upset. The reason being, articles like these lead us to be fearful for our teens and think they are all on some crazy mission to destroy themselves. I know that is not the case.

That is why I want to share with you some of the great things teens have been up to this summer. I asked the same group of teens what trends they were seeing this summer and here are some of the positive things they shared with me:

  • Engaging in new sports such as Rugby.
  • Taking summer school or college courses to get ahead.
  • Working a summer job.
  • Hanging out with their friends.
  • Going to the beach.
  • Going on trips with family.

The Ice Bucket Challenge: Does anyone remember back in April and May when teens were engaging in the “Cold Water Challenge?” They were jumping into bodies of cold Ice Bucket Challengewater and challenging their friends to do the same or donate to a charity. At the time there were several media stories talking about the dangers of the Cold Water Challenge and encouraging teens not to do it.

Fast forward a couple months, move from jumping in a lake to pouring ice water on your head and add in a single charity and you have the biggest trend not just for teens but everyone. My Facebook news feed and my favorite late night talk shows are full of videos of people taking the Ice Bucket Challenge to support ALS. Here is what teens have to say about the challenge:

  • Everyone in my town has been doing it, I have never seen anything like this before it is crazy. I thinks it has its drawbacks but it is great for the awareness of the disease.
  • I haven’t done it, but its been done by some of the senior citizens in our community and they challenged others I think it’s a fun safe challenge compared to others.
  • I’ve done it and also donated. I think it’s a trending challenge for a great cause, but many, including myself, are forgetting to spread awareness.”
  • I have done it and donated and I think it is amazing!! It’s getting people to know the cause and be aware of it!
  • I have done it… Twice and so have my friends. I haven’t donated yet. But I will try my best to donate at least $50 if possible. I think of it being a safer challenge/ dare rather than the fire or cinnamon challenges. Especially since it is for a good cause.
  • I think the Ice Bucket Challenge is a really fun, creative, and positive way to send a message to many people about ALS. You’re not getting hurt, it’s a positive message, and it’s fun! It makes people want to do it, and it gets a lot of people to donate, but it also spreads the message as well.

Leave a comment and let me know what Teen Trends have you seen gain popularity this summer?

Oh Crap: The Fears of Teens Today

Have you ever seen a teen hesitate to do something you knew they were good at? Paint a picture, participate in a sport, speak in front of a group, be a leader? More than likely they hesitate because there is a fear holding them back.

I would bet very few of us, if any, made it through our teen years without some fears deterring us from participating in an activity or working to accomplish a goal. I remember being in class and not completing an assignment because I was afraid I would get it wrong. Logically, I thought it was easier to just not do the assignment than to get it wrong. I even recall deciding not to attend certain events in college, out of fear I wouldn’t fit in.

In my previous post I talked about the hopes and dreams teens have today. When asked, teens expressed dreams of graduating high school and making a difference in the world. With that same group of teens, I also asked them what fears they have.

I learned teens today have a lot of fears. In fact when I asked about their hopes and fears, they responded with considerably more fears. This was true in both the sheer number of responses, and also the diversity of responses.

This did not surprise me too much, as the teenage years are filled with change. The world around them is changing as they grow up and gain more responsibility. Their bodies are changing. Their brain is allowing them to digest the world in ways they previously have not been able to. Many adults experience fear in the midst of change, so it is no surprise to learn teens are filled with fears and anxiety.

scared teenHere are some fears teens have today:

  • Not being good enough (in their own eyes & their parents eyes) or that they will fail
  • That they will be forgotten, not noticed or alone
  • That they will not do well in high school or college
  • That they will not achieve their dreams or accomplish their goals in life
  • Fear of death
  • Stuck doing something they do not enjoy
  • That college will be totally different from their expectations, and that it will be difficult
  • How society will view them, and what others will say and think about them
  • That they are a waste of space and cannot do or achieve anything in life

As I read these now, they make me sad. I can remember having some of those exact feelings as a teen and young adult. I had my whole life in front of me. It was exhilarating and scary all at the same time, and I was still trying to figure out how to navigate it. To top it off, everyone expected that I would be successful and do great things. At times I believed this and at other times I didn’t.

We need to realize that while teens may seem relaxed and carefree at times, there are very real fears that exist within them. I have witnessed guys graduating from high school go from goofing around and playing basketball one minute, to having a blank stare on their faces as they realized their fears about their uncertain future.

Parent and Youth Worker Tips:

  • Ask them what their fears are and don’t criticize or belittle their responses. As adults we may know the fear is irrational, but it is very real to them and the world as they see it.
  • Provide them opportunities to experience new things, especially as young teens. We often fear the unknown. If we provide opportunities and experiences in a safe group setting, this may help to decrease their anxiety of the unknown.
  • Share the fears you had as a teen. Talk about how you overcame those fears, or what opportunities you missed out on because you let your fear control you.
  • Focus on their hopes and dreams and help them to be action-oriented in striving towards their goals. It is good to acknowledge the fears but we don’t want to dwell in them.

Teens today need people in their lives rooting for them, supporting them and cheering them on. Not crushing their hopes and dreams. Allow your teen(s) dream big and help them overcome their fears on the way to achieving their dreams.

Oh Joy: The Hopes and Dreams of Teens Today

What do you see when you look at a teenager? Do you see a goofy kid lacking responsibility? Or do you see an aspiring young adult who wants to change the world? Or maybe something else?

Often, we see an element of the first. We witness a young person navigating their way through uncertain times – not a kid, but definitely not an adult.

Often this emerging, vulnerable person has a lot of passion! Although it may be for something seemingly materialistic, like the latest movie or a pair of shoes.

hopeful teenHowever, my experiences have shown me there is more to teens than this. I believe they have untapped passion. They have dreams and goals for their life, even if they have never spoken them out loud before. They are there, sometimes deep down inside.

I remember as a teen I dreamed of hitting the winning shot in the championship basketball game. I had goals to become a police officer, to serve others and help those in need. I had hopes of just fitting in. If we think back to our teen years, the majority of us had hopes, dreams and goals too.

Knowing someone’s hopes and dreams can tell you a lot about that person. I have been blown away by some of the deep thoughts teens and friends have shared when I’ve taken the time to ask about their hopes, and listen to their answers. I still remember a friend who told me about his dream to open up a sock store in the mall. It was a weird idea, but he was passionate about it.

If you work with teens or have teens, I encourage you to ask them what their hopes and dreams are. Like any relationship, having a positive bond established will contribute to the quality and depth of the conversation.

I recently asked a group of teens what their hopes and dreams were. Here are some of their responses:

  • To achieve greatness
  • To be a role model for younger kids
  • To be successful
  • To be happy, achieve my dreams and be stress free
  • To graduate high school and go to college
  • To be happy in my career, what ever it ends up being
  • To be successful in college
  • To fit in and be the best I can be
  • To choose the right path
  • To help make a difference in the world
  • To be a teacher and impact future students lives

Many of the teens I spoke to had a level of uncertainty about what exactly they wanted to do or be when they got older, but they did know they wanted to be successful. They defined success as making a difference, being happy and persevering when dealing with challenging situations or failure. None of them defined success as being rich.

Parent and Youth Worker Tips:

  • As you build a relationship and get to know your teens, take time to ask them what their hopes and dreams are. You can do this in a small group setting or one on one. If they don’t know that is ok. They may be embarrassed to say, or may have trouble articulating their thoughts. In a small group setting, writing, drawing or creating a collage out of magazine clippings can be a meaningful way for them to express their passion.
  • Share what your hopes and dreams were as a teen with them, no mater how silly or far-fetched. If you did not achieve those dreams, or perhaps went down another path, take time to explain that process. Teens will likely be comforted to hear how common it is to change course. Many teens fear their current dreams will not be satisfying in the long run. If you accomplished your dreams share with them how you did it. It can be helpful for teens to hear what steps you took, failures you experienced along the way, and how you overcame adversity.
  • Make a point to practice sensitivity with teens, and do not laugh or poke fun at their hopes and dreams.
  • Encourage them to pursue their dreams and to embrace their passions. My parents knew of mine and my brothers dreams of becoming police officers and connected us with a local law enforcement explorers program. Find opportunities to explore, experience and dive into their passions and dreams.

The next post in this series will focus on the fears teens experience today. Stay tuned!

Teen Culture Articles of Interest vol. 3

Occasionally I find myself busy, overwhelmed and not enough time to blog. Anyone ever have those feelings? If not let me know, I have a garage door my wife has wanted me to paint for over a year.

Until I have time to take a deep dive into writing a few posts, here are four articles I have read lately that are related to teens and teen culture. Enjoy and please share in the comments what recent articles or research related to teens today you have been diving into.

Move Over Avon Lady, the Tweens Are Here

I know my wife, along with most women I know, enjoy going to Thirty-one, Norwex or Stella & Dot parties where they get to socialize with their girlfriends and buy products from a friend who is sales rep for the company. We may or may not have hosted several of these parties at our own home. Now Willa, who sells skin care product for young girls, has turned to the direct sale model and is enlisting young teens as sales reps. This (great?) concept plays into the idea that youth are more likely to make a purchase based off a peer recommendation and it is encouraging youth to be entrepreneurs. Will other companies follow suit?

‘Fancy’ that! Meet your song-of-summer contenders

izzyWe all have that one song that takes you back to relaxing days hanging with your high school buddies during summer break. “Regulate”, “Paradise City” and  “All Star” are just a few I remember fondly. Here is a list of early contenders for songs that you are bound to hear overplayed and teens singing along to this summer. Side note: Here is a great list of the top 10 summer songs for each year between 1985-2013. I know you will spend the rest of your day drifting down memory lane listening to each summer. You’re welcome.

Understanding Facebook’s Lost Generation of Teens: The Social Network’s Struggle to Woo Kids isn’t Because it’s Also Their Parents’ Favorite Social Network

Because I get asked a question around teens views on Facebook at every presentation I do, I wanted to include this article which gives great insight into the topic. It is a long read but packed with teen perspective, which I appreciate. A couple of things that stood out to me were, the first app teens turn to on their phones are often singular function apps. And that teens are not necessarily leaving Facebook, they are just indifferent.

Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its 2013 findings from the The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) which monitors health-risk behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death and disability among youth and adults. Key findings include:

  • Nationwide, 41% of students who had driven a vehicle during the past 30 days reported texting or emailing while driving.
  • Cigarette smoking rates have dropped to the lowest levels since the YRBS began in 1991, from 27.5% to 15.7%
  • 25% of teens participated in physical fights in 2013, decreasing from 43% in 1991.