In the age of the influencer, who’s influencing our teens?
There comes a time in a child’s journey when they will become skeptical of advice, simply because it comes from an adult. Usually, it’s right when they need solid advice most, from someone older and wiser, around age 11. On top of that, it’s the age of the influencer, with people becoming TikTok famous overnight, for less-than-exemplary reasons and challenges are creating mayhem in schools across the country.
There’s just no getting around the impacts of social media on our teens. In fact, new information seems to always be coming to light about the long-term negative effects on the teenage population that has come up in the social media age. Recently, Facebook’s own documents reveal that Instagram is ‘toxic for teen girls,’ as significant mental health issues arise, particularly with regard to teen body image. Nonetheless, 86% of young people aspire to be influencers on social media.
Adolescence is a crucial time in human development. As adolescents find their voices, and learn who they are, they also can be easily swayed by their close relationships. Historically, a teenage life has been largely influenced by peers, parents, community, and society. Yet, in this age of social media, we don’t really know the scope of our children’s “community” or “society” anymore, and their respective influences.
If you’re parenting a teen, they are certainly being influenced, but do you know who those influencers are? If your child hangs with the right crowd, or has a go-getter sib, that’s good news. But what to do if not? Short answer: You need key people to provide a positive influence on your teen.
Encourage your teen to engage in an extra-curricular activity. Teen anxiety and depression are a huge and growing problem. One thing that can help is discovering a new passion and a community of like-minded peers. A club or a sport, particularly with an excellent teacher, leader or coach, can be a tremendous gift that keeps on giving to your teen. Even trying a bunch of new things in search of a passion is beneficial.
Introduce your teen to a mindfulness practice. There’s a lot to be gained when an adolescent learns to cultivate trust in their own guidance systems, instead of always responding to outside influences and impulses to check and scroll their phones. There are many meditation apps full of resources and quick meditations, like Calm and Insight Timer. Practicing meditation and mindfulness can help teens cultivate the mindset it takes to move through life with more confidence and self-love. They also help build resilience in the face of constant comparison created by the prevalence of social media.
Seek older peer role models to spend time with and mentor your teen. One friend’s good example can go a long way. Positive peer pressure often involves more encouragement and support than actual pressure or persuasion, and is highly effective at forming good habits and encouraging motivation. And if your teen is exemplary in certain areas, seek out opportunities for them to mentor younger peers, which also offers tremendous growth potential.
When I set out with my teenage son, to create a platform to connect young teens with positive near-peer mentorship, we first got to work hiring the most stellar mentors that we could find. We hired students across the country aged 16-22, who not only have amazing academic records, but also each pursue unique passions and extracurricular activities. We enjoy hearing from parents, how these talented young adults offer good, practical advice to young teens as they navigate middle school and prepare for high school. They are also rigorously vetted and have excellent letters of recommendation.
My son and I knew that for our virtual community to be successful we had to leverage the value and impact that near-peer mentorship can have on young teens and tweens, who are just now finding their voices and their way in the world, and crave the validation of older peers. Like many of us, they want to feel seen, heard, respected, and valued. Our peer mentors truly care about providing support and guidance to our young students. It’s clear that the right influences can have long-term positive effects on young teens. Is your child connecting with aspirational peers?
To your success,
Christine Hutchison, Founder
Teen Innovators is a mentorship community created to foster innovation in students age 11-15, and provide them with the tools and confidence they need to succeed as leaders of tomorrow. Now offering virtual after-school clubs! Explore our programs at Teeninnovators.com.