If you’re-entering the world of teens it can seem a daunting task to say the least. The door to their world can seem alien and unfriendly, but don’t be afraid. Entertainment, in the form of music and video games, changes as fast as grass grows in the summer, but you can still jump in and learn a little if you’re willing.
Why would you do this? Because when you learn about someone else’s world it opens the door for relationship building. Ask your teen questions about their likes and dislikes and then go do your research. Hit the Internet, go to the movies, and play some games.
Where do you start? If you have a daughter the best place to dive in is the magazine rack at the local supermarket. Pick up some copies of Glamour and Seventeen and approach them as if you were on an anthropological dig. If you have a son then you may want to buy Sports Illustrated or one of the many magazines aimed at gamers or music lovers. What do the cover headlines say about the culture? How are the marketing tools used to entice your child? What kind of advice are the writers doling out in quick and easy to read blurbs? What picture is being presented of the world your daughter navigates on a daily basis?
Your journey doesn’t end with the printed word. The next stop on your stroll through teen culture is the Internet. Check out current music trends and watch the videos. If you gained information about favorite bands or musicians, then make sure you know the content of their songs and the presentations your child is ingesting. It may not be a great experience for you, but it helps you again to understand the world your daughter is living in at this point in time.
Don’t give up yet as you have another stop to make with media and that’s either in the form of movies, TV shows, or Internet games. What movies has your child seen that you are unfamiliar with? Either rent them or go see them. What TV shows do they watch and dialogue with their friends? Check it out. What games are they playing on the Internet or via CD? Get reviews or play them yourself.
There are other places you could venture, but with a load of information at hand what do you do now? You use it as a door to relationship with your child. Ask them some specific points about the movie you saw. Ask for clarification. Everyone likes to be asked for their wisdom and insight and your teen is no exception. Be aware of the cultural bombardment they experience on a daily basis via printed and visual media. Remember that as adults we have the ability to cognitively dissect what we pick up, but our teens aren’t quite there. They need help, but give it to them in the form of Socratic dialogue.
As you become an expert on your teen’s culture don’t forget that it’s for the purpose of relationship building. The last thing you want to do is use it to build a wall of protection around your child. Remember, it’s not as scary as you thought.