Posted by Linda W. Braun
A couple of days ago I was with a group of teens in a public library and was reminded of how wonderful teens can be if we give them the chance.
There was a group of about 20 teens at the library for the weekly teen advisory group. For this week’s TAG the teens were testing out some new games the library purchased. Not everyone wanted to play every game, and when some teens were playing a game others weren’t interested in, the non-interested teens hung out, talked, read, etc. No one got all crazy about not being able to play. Similarly, whenever it was time to try out a new game, no one got all crazy about having to give up what they were playing.
The one game that brought everyone around the gaming console, and the TV which it was hooked up to, was Karaoke. (Which had a DDR dance pad attached along with a microphone.) All of the teens were interested in watching and/or singing. All of the teens cheered each other on – even when it was obvious the person singing had a terrible voice. When one of the youngest (and smallest) teens said he wanted to sing (he didn’t play any of the other games) I was really impressed with how comfortable he was getting up in front of the others whom he had just met, and how supportive the other teens were of his singing.
There were a couple of things I thought about as I spent time with this group of teens. First, the library was obviously a place where they felt welcome and respected. They were comfortable in the environment and were comfortable being themselves. They knew no one was going to judge them about how they played, sang, talked, etc.
Another thing I thought about, this is something I think about all the time, is how much more often we need to tell the positive stories about teens and what they do for themselves and with and for each other. The afternoon I spent with this group of teens was a definite positive story of smart, respectful, and confident teenagers.
I also have been thinking about how the library, through this TAG, demonstrated several of the ways in which it is possible to help teens develop successfully as outlined by the Search Institute’s Developomental Assets. These include:
- Support – by respecting the teens, giving them a chance to plan programs and services, and giving them a place in which to test things out and be themselves.
- Boundaries and Expectations – by helping the teens cycle through the games in order to test each one.
- Empowerment – by giving the teens the role of game testers and by showing teens then can “perform” in front of others and not be judged.
- Social Competencies – by giving teens the chance to play games together, hang out in a comfortable environment, and talking to them about their needs and interests.
I know the library I visited isn’t the only one doing great things for teens. It’s incredibly exciting however any time I get to see the positive impact library services can have on teens in actual practice in a library.