16 April 2014
There is one question that is asked of us more than any other, "How do we engage our teens?" The language teenagers speak is ever evolving and what's cool one day may be lame another (do kids say "lame" anymore?) We can simply dismiss our teenagers as cynical and "plugged in" OR we can create programming that teenagers will like.
Think like Adults
It is easy to underestimate the intellect and interests of a 12 year old. Kids grow up fast and are more sophisticated than we give them credit for. When planning for your teens, think about activities YOU would enjoy, consider topics YOU think are cool, and devise a way of marketing and explaining the program in a way that would engage YOUR interests.
Ask for an Opinion
Teenagers are exploring the world and love to give feedback on it. Ask your teens what they would like to do before planning a program. Use open source questions and agree/disagree statements to generate engagement. Allow participants to share stories and opinions. Plan activities for the group to either accomplish individually or in small groups to increase participation.
Split the kids into groups using one of our cool ways to split kids into groups
Fear Not Technology
You know what almost everyone thinks is cool? Google. Apple. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. (We could keep going...) Yet, many organizations plan programming in opposition of technology. Your opinion aside, teens don't want or understand why they need to escape social media. Plan your programming to include "check-ins", photo sharing, tagging (even making your own live event facebook wall with markers and large post its). The result will be more interaction, more engagement, and more attendance.
Teens want adults to "get them." A recent survey of 1,830 15 years olds released by the Search Institute, indicates the 10 things teens are looking for to build positive relationships with adults.