New research from FrameWorks Institute indicates that organizations “working on and communicating about adolescent issues” produce informational materials that “rarely mention adolescent development.” These are missed opportunities to educate the public about teen development, thus perpetuating “unproductive patterns in public thinking” about teens and their behavior.
While there isn’t a lot of research on this topic and this study was fairly small, it still makes me wonder… How effectively are public libraries communicating about teens and the services we provide them?
The following are a few of the recommendations from the article that we may want to consider in library communications about our work with teens:
- Include a brief explanation about part of the teen development process that is relevant to the library program/service/material you are communicating about
- Emphasize how teen development, in the context of the library program/service/material, benefits the broader community
- “Balance discussions between risk and opportunity;” mention both the positive influence of the library program/service/material and how they may reduce harm to some teens
- “Amplify productive communications pattern;” when you provide information created by other organizations about teens make sure they are following these recommendations
As you think about applying these recommendations, I highly recommend reading pages 23-28 of Amplifying Positive Frames because they provide great examples of better, more effective communications about teen issues. For example:
“Adolescence is a time of significant, at times, rapid change in physical, neurobiological, and psychological development. Many of the changes that take place during this period of life, such as increases in risk-taking behavior or heightened sensitivity to social status and rewards, are adaptive parts of the development process; they are vital for the learning and change that takes place during this time of life. These features of adolescence are not and should not be viewed as inherently problematic.”
Perhaps you want to try a teen program like Will it Waffle, and you anticipate push-back from co-works and patron complaints of rowdy teens. You might consider providing information to co-workers, parents, and patrons like:
Will it Waffle provides teens an opportunity to take risks and reap the rewards with their peers! Risk taking and socializing are important parts of teen development, vital to learning and becoming self-reliant. The library strives to be a positive influence that supports teens as they develop and become capable adults in our community.
Note: I am not suggesting that your or the library should promote the program to teens in this way!