Abby’s Road is a podcast in which high school senior, Abby Laporte, talks with peers and adults about a variety of topics of interest to teens and the adults who live and work with them. Over the life of the podcast Abby and her guests have covered topics including visiting colleges, sexual orientation, abuse, and, most recently, technology. (You can listen to the most recent podcast.)
When listening to the latest podcast in the series, I was once again reminded of the value adults need to place on teen abilities to think critically. Throughout the podcast, Abby and the teens she talked with, demonstrated that they are all aware of the need to think about the actions that they take online. They also know that sometimes the actions they choose aren’t necessarily the best. But, they do know that. These teens are thinking human beings and not just walking mindless creatures.
How did these teens get to be thinking human beings and know how to make choices? As I listened it seemed pretty clear that, to at least some degree, their critical thinking skills came from the adults in their lives. At one point Abby asked her guests whether or not access to social networking should be blocked by parents of young children and teens. The answers from her guests mostly focused on the idea that the best thing parents can do for their children is be aware of what is going on in their children’s lives and talk with their children about appropriate and inappropriate use of technology.
The teens discussing the topic seemed to have had experience with parents who were willing to converse about various aspects of their lives and technology use. These teens had good modeling from their parents, and perhaps other adults in their lives, and as a result were smart users of technology.
I think about the need to talk with teens about smart choices and safe use of technology every time I hear about a school or public library blocking access to many of the sites that teens like to use. If your school or public library is in the blocking frame of mind, consider promoting listening to Abby’s Road to parents, teachers, colleagues, and administrators. Consider facilitating a discussion among members of your community about teen perspectives on technology use and how, through open conversation with teens in the community, adults can learn what’s really going on in that use, and also help teens to be safe when it comes to their technology lives.
Talking with teens can be risky. But if the adults who live and work with teens don’t have those risky conversations who will? And, if the adults who live and work with teens don’t have the conversations, how can teens be expected to critically think about their options in order to make good decisions about their lives?
Adults need to realize that teens can think for themselves and at the same time they have to help teens gain the skills to successfully do that. Critical thinking comes with discussion and practice. Adults can’t be afraid to talk, on a wide variety of topics, with teens about decision making and they can’t be afraid to give teens the chance to practice that decision making. It’s really the only way adults can help teens grow up to successfully live in a world where making choices is something they need to do every day.