Teen Super-Human Powers of Persuasion: How to Encourage and Empower Them to Advocate for Their Libraries

I have found that teens can be far more persuasive to library boards, administration, or community entities than any individual adult can. Here are my personal theories regarding the Teen Super-Human Powers of Persuasion

Teens are misunderstood
Many adults are scared of teens, viewing them as unruly, emotional and hyper-sexualized… oh the wonders of puberty. I feel as though, more often than not, the struggles between adults and teens surround the teen battle for independence– to be viewed as an emerging adult with their own identity and ideas of how to live their life. Often times the adult does not stop to listen to the teen. Or the adult immediately switches over to defensive mode when approaching a teen instead of initiating a conversation and addressing an issue through discussion. Teens have amazing ideas and suggestions for change. They offer up alterative options for issues at hand. When you have a group of teens facing down a board room of adults saying “we see this problem and we have a solution”, adults can’t help but listen because their preconceived notion of what a teen is (see above description) does not fit the view before them– of teens taking action because they care. Teens can use this to their advantage.

Teens are social beings
Teens rely more on their peers than their parents. So embrace that. There is power in numbers and our teens have numbers. Teens can bring on a social movement with the force of a tsunami because they are so connected. Encourage your teens to reach out to their friends and their friends’ friends. Because we all know that using our network of connections puts us only 7 degrees away from Kevin Bacon. One of the first steps of creating change is gathering like minded individuals committed to making change.

Teens have the technological “leg up”
I have many times been impressed with how quickly information spreads amongst my teens. Within hours word has spread via text message, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and viral cell phone videos. It is as if they all have their own jet packs and have been sky writing messages to the entire teen population.

Their message not only spreads in number but also geographically across the school or across the globe. They are not only “connected” but are reliant on access to instant information via technology. Their mastery of Web 2.0 will be the most powerful tool for a call to change, and ultimately, world domination.

Our teens have a voice. It is part of our responsibility as Young Adult Librarians to help them utilize their voice and change the world. With your encouragement and support they can start the change process.

According to The Democracy Center, in order to have a successful advocacy campaign you must first have a clear vision of what’s going on what isn’t working and then establish a vision for what could be better. The Democracy Center outlines five questions that will help guide your teens towards establishing their successful advocacy campaign. To learn more visit The Democracy Center’s to access their advocacy resources at www.democracyctr.org.

Posted by Mary Olive Thompson

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