Every town is better off when our youth don’t get caught up in the wrong scene. Rich or poor, every neighborhood runs the risk of gang, drug and crime activities among teens because adolescence is such a vulnerable time in every person’s life. That awkward period between childhood and adulthood is very confusing as individuals try to figure out who they are and where they fit in. That’s why it’s so important that, as the adults in the village, we do everything we can to give our teens the best chance for making smarter decisions about how to spend their time and use their talents. This post gives a few common sense ways to pitch in as a parent, guardian or loved one.
1. Limit Screen Time
With social media bullying on the rise and online socializing playing into FOMO (fear of missing out), studies are showing just how harmful social media can be to mental health.
Teens have enough trouble navigating the pressures of school and social life without amplifying it throughout online activities. And it’s not just social media; obsessive video gaming keeps kids indoors and away from real life interactions. Teens are sitting behind screens rather than having real, meaningful conversations and interactions – it’s not healthy in excess.
For this reason, it’s important to be mindful just how much time teens are spending texting on phones, on the Internet and on video games. Limit access, limit time and encourage them to pick up other hobbies early in life, such as:
- Scooter riding
- Arts & crafts
2. Treat Mental Health Issues
Teens today are highly prone to mental health issues and illnesses, not only because the high level of raging hormones, but also a result of society sinking back behind screens and reducing real life interactions. Kids today just don’t interact with people enough, leaving them unskilled at navigating interpersonal relationships and their own emotions.
When you add to that the social pressures to fit in and a desire to have an identity, you create the perfect environment for stress, anxiety and depression. Which, when left untreated, can result in seriously risky behavior and choices for the teen.
If you sense that a teen you love could be experiencing or at risk for mental illness, don’t stay silent. Encourage the parent to get the teen professional assistance through trained and licensed counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists. And if the family isn’t too keen on traditional pharmaceuticals, consider talking to a doctor about natural alternatives.
3. Help Teens Find Other Outlets
Adolescents need other outlets for their energy and emotions that stave off excessive boredom and let them blow off some steam in a healthier way. Having a fun hobby or activity that excites them is going to help prevent troublesome behavior down the road. And if that activity involves other people, it’s even better because they won’t wind up running with the wrong crowd.
Encourage your kids to pick up hobbies and interests early, which could turn into an organized activity in the teen years.
- Puzzles, sudoku and mystery books could turn into joining a math, chess or debate club
- Park district classes could turn into trying out for sports clubs and school athletics
- Arts and crafts could turn into building sets for the drama club or department
- Reading and writing could result in volunteering for the school newspaper or year book organization
- Mind-challenging hobbies, such as building models or elaborate lego structures, help kids learn to problem solve.
- For older teens with a work permit, help them discover hands-on, practical career paths that will keep them busy but interested, such as appliance repair, which definitely takes a technically minded person to figure it out. Even if they don’t choose this for an adult job, this type of skill can help them when they become a homeowner anyway.
There are plenty of ways to gently guide teens in your family or community away from sketchy street activity whether you start early or later; it just takes a little observation, a willingness to help and a lot of compassion.