Posted by: Ed Brazee | May 20, 2013

Parents…try this at home

Parents needed here! 

Not too long ago we introduced children and teens to magazines, newspapers, books, and television news. We taught them how to be discriminating readers and viewers, how to analyze complex issues, and (hopefully) how to think for themselves. That information flow was like a dripping faucet, relatively easy to manage.

In 2013 we buy our kids cellphones—smart and otherwise. We pay for monthly Internet service. We buy them laptops and tablets to use at home and school. Consequently, our children are readily connected to the world every single moment. And we wonder, given the vast opportunities for learning online, why the two primary online activities for teens are still texting their friends and spending several hours each day on social media like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Tumblr. It appears that many teens have a limited set of online activities—social connections and entertainment. How do we help them expand their horizons?

From close range it appears that children and teens are only scratching the surface in using what experts have described as a “firehose” of Internet accessible information. For example, how long does it take to compose, write, send, and respond to 3417 texts each month, the average number of texts that 12-18-year-olds send? Just how long does it take to stop, read, consider, and respond to a text message…especially when we receive 114 texts everyday?

With all this time spent staying connected with friends, when does learning, collaborating, creating, and using the resources of the Internet to learn and do good actually occur? The short answer is that none of these things happen without some parental help…intentional assistance. Here is one specific thing that any parent can do to help her/his teen move beyond what often appears to be mindless texting and excessive time on social media. (Yes, I know these are value judgments from an adult point of view!)

One of the best things that parents (and teachers) can do is to show your teen how to “follow” several people who write and are involved in really interesting things. Scientists, researchers, policy makers, writers, artists, musicians, and others. The point, of course, is to introduce our kids and teens to new points of view, intriguing people who make important contributions to society, and actively work to solve intractable problems. There are plenty of interesting people to watch and learn from through TED videos, but take a look at these impressive young people doing important work.

Julia Bluhm and Izzy Labbe, 9th graders, are bloggers, activists, and feminists who write for SPARK, a girl-fueled activist movement working to end the sexualization of women and girls in media. Julia and Izzy’s petition to encourage Seventeen Magazine to stop using Photoshopped images of young girls gathered over 86,000 signatures and eventually led to a “Body Peace Treaty” when Seventeen agreed to feature more authentic images of girls. Both young women are now active bloggers and speak widely about their experiences and work. Watch their excellent presentation at TEDx Women 2012  to hear their full story.

Two other teens to follow: Girls rights’ advocate and philanthro-teen, Annie Gersh and Adora Svitak, writer, teacher, and youth voice activist.

I guarantee that after seeing or reading about the work from any one of these teen activists, your teen will be inspired and ready to get involved!


  1. I love this message and the site. Thanks folks for the terrific contribution.

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