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What Are Some Ways I Can Work With My Teen?

The heart of media literacy lies in the discussion. There are many activities that you can do with your teen, and we offer some below. But nothing is more important than talking with teens about what we watch, hear, and read.

Keep discussions relaxed so the pressure is off teens to get the “right” answer. Draw out their ideas and guide them to critically examine what they see and hear. Remember to keep probing the answer to help young people expand their thoughts. Probing helps them focus and helps us understand how they perceive what they view. It doesn’t matter so much what questions you ask. The important thing is to get youth to express and to challenge what they see and hear. Young people can learn how to read between the lines so that they can understand exactly what music videos, movies, and other forms of communication that reach youth are saying to them.

Rent it Today!

Order two movies—one you pick that depicts what life was like when you were a teenager and one that your teenager feels accurately depicts his experience. Watch them together and talk about the positive and/or negative ways young people are portrayed.

Pass the Remote Control!

Watch each other’s favorite television show together at least once sometime during the same week. Was the show any different than you thought it would be? Did you like it? Talk to each other about your impressions.

Say What?

Divide a stack of blank index cards between you and your teen and write down different slang terms associated with alcohol, one on each card. You use the terms from your teenage years and your teen should use the ones that he or she hears today. Quiz each other and see how familiar you are with each other’s slang terms, such as “buzz” and “getting stupid.” Have any of the terms stayed the same? If not, why have they changed? Have drugs (their potency, consumption pattern, popularity) changed?

Fill in the Decade

Get four blank pieces of paper and write down the decade that describes your teenage years at the top of two and do the same for your teenager on the other two pages. Each of you should take a set of the papers and write down what you know about the decade and the youth culture of that time. After you both finish, either switch papers or read your thoughts aloud. Discuss the similarities and differences in your impressions.

Find Your Idol Online

If you have access to a computer and the Internet, sit down with your teen and do a little surfing together. Each of you look up a person you admire(d) as a teenager and see what interesting things you can find out. Are your idols anything alike or totally different? What is it about these people that you and your teen admire? Did they or do they have any influence on your attitudes or behavior?

Turn the Beat Around

Take turns playing deejay the next time you and your teenager go for a ride in the car. You choose the songs on the way to someplace, and your teen gets to choose the music for the ride home. Did you both survive the rides?

Tuning In

Trade copies of magazines you and your teen like to read and pick one advertisement* that catches your eye. Sit down together and ask each other the following questions:

  1. Which product or lifestyle is the ad selling/promoting?
  2. Why did the company pick this particular magazine to advertise its product? Who is the intended audience?
  3. What does the company want you to think or believe about the product? What will using the product do for you?
  4. Is there anything the company might not want you to know about the product? Are there any negatives or harms associated with using the product?

* After you each review the first ad, try it again with an alcohol or tobacco ad.

Logging In

Apply the Tuning In conversation to the Internet. Share Web sites and discuss what catches your eye. Ask the same questions about how a particular site sends a message to youth.