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In the age of the influencer, who’s influencing our teens?

In the age of the influencer, who’s influencing our teens?

There comes a time in a child’s journey when they will become skeptical of advice, simply because it comes from an adult. Usually, it’s right when they need solid advice most, from someone older and wiser, around age 11. On top of that, it’s the age of the influencer, with people becoming TikTok famous overnight, for less-than-exemplary reasons and challenges are creating mayhem in schools across the country. 

 

There’s just no getting around the impacts of social media on our teens. In fact, new information seems to always be coming to light about the long-term negative effects on the teenage population that has come up in the social media age. Recently, Facebook’s own documents reveal that Instagram is ‘toxic for teen girls,’ as significant mental health issues arise, particularly with regard to teen body image. Nonetheless, 86% of young people aspire to be influencers on social media.

 

Adolescence is a crucial time in human development. As adolescents find their voices, and learn who they are, they also can be easily swayed by their close relationships. Historically, a teenage life has been largely influenced by peers, parents, community, and society. Yet, in this age of social media, we don’t really know the scope of our children’s “community” or “society” anymore, and their respective influences.

 

If you’re parenting a teen, they are certainly being influenced, but do you know who those influencers are? If your child hangs with the right crowd, or has a go-getter sib, that’s good news. But what to do if not? Short answer: You need key people to provide a positive influence on your teen.

 

  1. Encourage your teen to engage in an extra-curricular activity. Teen anxiety and depression are a huge and growing problem. One thing that can help is discovering a new passion and a community of like-minded peers. A club or a sport, particularly with an excellent teacher, leader or coach, can be a tremendous gift that keeps on giving to your teen. Even trying a bunch of new things in search of a passion is beneficial.
  2. Introduce your teen to a mindfulness practice. There’s a lot to be gained when an adolescent learns to cultivate trust in their own guidance systems, instead of always responding to outside influences and impulses to check and scroll their phones. There are many meditation apps full of resources and quick meditations, like Calm and Insight Timer. Practicing meditation and mindfulness can help teens cultivate the mindset it takes to move through life with more confidence and self-love. They also help build resilience in the face of constant comparison created by the prevalence of social media
  3. Seek older peer role models to spend time with and mentor your teen. One friend’s good example can go a long way. Positive peer pressure often involves more encouragement and support than actual pressure or persuasion, and is highly effective at forming good habits and encouraging motivation. And if your teen is exemplary in certain areas, seek out opportunities for them to mentor younger peers, which also offers tremendous growth potential.

 

When I set out with my teenage son, to create a platform to connect young teens with positive near-peer mentorship, we first got to work hiring the most stellar mentors that we could find. We hired students across the country aged 16-22, who not only have amazing academic records, but also each pursue unique passions and extracurricular activities. We enjoy hearing from parents, how these talented young adults offer good, practical advice to young teens as they navigate middle school and prepare for high school. They are also rigorously vetted and have excellent letters of recommendation.

 

My son and I knew that for our virtual community to be successful we had to leverage the value and impact that near-peer mentorship can have on young teens and tweens, who are just now finding their voices and their way in the world, and crave the validation of older peers. Like many of us, they want to feel seen, heard, respected, and valued. Our peer mentors truly care about providing support and guidance to our young students. It’s clear that the right influences can have long-term positive effects on young teens. Is your child connecting with aspirational peers?

 

To your success,

 

Christine Hutchison, Founder

Teen Innovators is a mentorship community created to foster innovation in students age 11-15, and provide them with the tools and confidence they need to succeed as leaders of tomorrow. Now offering virtual after-school clubs! Explore our programs at Teeninnovators.com.

Giving our teens the sense of connection and belonging they need to thrive

Giving our teens the sense of connection and belonging they need to thrive

Of the many things you can provide your children, a sense of community may be among the most important gifts they receive. Social connectedness is extremely important for mental wellbeing and longevity. In fact, According to Tal Ben-Shahar, a lecturer at Columbia University and author of seven books on happiness, “the number one predictor of happiness is the time we spend with people we care about and who care about us.” So if the time spent with friends is so crucial, it makes sense to make friends that support one’s well-being, too.

Recent CDC findings published in Pediatrics show that a sense of belonging among youth also has effects lasting into adulthood, stating that “youth who feel connected at school and at home were found to be as much as 66% less likely to experience health risk behaviors related to sexual health, substance use, violence, and mental health in adulthood.” That’s a powerful statistic, yet perhaps not surprising. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s how much we humans want to connect with one another.

Living through isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic made the importance of connection and belonging increasingly obvious. Compared with 2019, the proportion of mental health–related hospital visits for children aged 5–11 and 12–17 years increased approximately 24%. and 31%, respectively. But there is hope for improvement, as schools reopen and students again have more interaction with classmates and teachers. 

The question for many of our kids remains, are they feeling connected with their “right tribe”? Especially if your teen is ‘different’, gifted, more inquisitive, or learns differently, they may have more of a challenge in finding and making like-minded friends. Even though you can’t control your child’s internal sense of belonging, there are a few ways you can encourage your child to access it. Here are 3 of our top recommendations.

  1. Branch out. Talk up opportunities to meet and expand your teen’s friend groups. While school classes are the likely venue to establish new friendships, there are other settings like clubs, sports, and classes offered in your local community. Even if your child believes she is ‘not athletic,’ park district sports teams are often a low-pressure way to gain new skills and new friends. Encourage kids to think about these opportunities like a new adventure. Something to try for one session, and then decide if it’s not for them. New connections and friends made outside of your school environment can also make the transition into middle school or high school smoother for your teen.
  2. Be authentic. Let your child know that being real means being willing to be seen as you are, without changing yourself for pleasing or performing for others. Even though to many young teens, “fitting in” may seem of paramount importance, altering your true self in order to feel comfortable in a group is not true belonging. It’s actually hiding. Authenticity – being who you are so that your insides match your outsides – is essential to that sense of connection and belonging that we’re discussing here.
  3. Be Brave. Bravery is a skill. Lots of teens (and adults!) have trouble motivating themselves to do things that feel scary. And starting conversations with potential new friends can be just that. But what do they have to lose, other than two awkward minutes at worst? What’s to gain? Could be a friend for life. Encourage your teen to listen to their gut about who they have something in common with. Those are the people to try connecting with first. Talk with your teen and come up with 5 questions they can use as conversation starters. (Questions are great, because people love to talk about themselves!) Think of it as helping your teen prepare a toolbox that he can pull from when needed. Once they get the hang of it, starting conversations will become much more natural.

 

If you’re reading this, I know you want the best for your kids. But like most of us, sometimes you may feel too busy or tapped yourself to provide the attention your kids need to live their best lives. At Teen Innovators, we provide support by making vital connections between young teens and near-peer mentors, who provide constructive, social support, and positively influence their lives. Mentor sessions are available on-demand and virtual, so students can login from anywhere!

We strive to create a sense of belonging. Through our work with many younger teens, we’ve learned that what unites them is a desire for community, a safe space to engage, socialize, and feel heard and validated. Our mentors get it. Either high school seniors or recent high school graduates, these are accomplished young adults with fresh experiences that teens can learn from and relate with. 

 

This fall, we are launching virtual after-school clubs, led by our stellar peer mentors. In this new format, we’re providing young teens a space where they can connect with caring older peers, as well as with like-minded young teens from across the country. Up first? Video Game Like a Pro by playing Minecraft and Fortnite.  Also on the schedule are Explorer’s Club, in which students will virtually explore a new city at each meeting, and Animals Club, where students will learn how to care for their pets and favorite animals, as well as learn about potential careers in animal-related fields. Coming soon are Author’s Club for teens who feel inspired to write a book, and Be Your Own Boss Club, for budding entrepreneurs. While our clubs offer something for everyone, belonging is the universal side benefit that keeps on giving.

To your success,

Christine Hutchison, Founder

Teen Innovators strives to improve students’ social and mental well being, Teen Innovators provides after school near peer mentoring sessions and clubs that foster creative thinking and purpose driven conversations to build leadership and life skills helping teens to feel more confident, energized, and motivated.

Our peer mentors are highly-accomplished older teens and young adults age 17-21, who are passionate about sharing their knowledge with their younger peers. Now offering virtual clubs! Explore our programs at Teeninnovators.com.

Teen Innovators Launches After School Clubs

Teen Innovators Launches After School Clubs

Teen Innovators, an online community of positive, teen and young adult role models for younger teens, announces virtual afterschool clubs. Clubs will begin on October 20th, and cover a range of topics, including gaming, exploring, and animals. Convenient and flexible, online clubs will be led by accomplished peer mentors, age 17-21, for teens and tweens age 11-16. 

A near-peer mentorship program at its inception, Teen Innovators is now offering after school clubs to provide young teens a space where they can connect with caring older peers, as well as with like-minded young teens from across the country. ‘Video Game Like a Pro’ is offered Wednesdays at 4:30PM and Thursdays at 5:30PM Central Time. Animal Club, where teens will learn about different animals and how to care for pets, as well as careers in animal-related fields, is offered Wednesdays at 5:30PM. Explorer’s Club, in which teens will take virtual tours of cities around the world, runs on Thursdays at 4:30PM. Coming soon will be Author’s Club for teens who dream of writing a book, and Be Your Own Boss Club, for budding entrepreneurs.

For curious teens, and those who are gifted, or have learning differences, finding and making like-minded friends and connecting with older, near-peer mentors can be life-changing. Social connectedness and positive role models are extremely important. Recent CDC findings published in Pediatrics show that a sense of belonging among youth also has positive effects lasting into adulthood, stating that “[y]outh who feel connected at school and at home were found to be as much as 66% less likely to experience health risk behaviors related to sexual health, substance use, violence, and mental health in adulthood.” 

Living through isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic made the importance of connection and belonging increasingly obvious. Compared with 2019, the proportion of mental health–related hospital visits for children aged 5–11 and 12–17 years increased approximately 24%. and 31%, respectively. Teen Innovators strives to create a sense of confidence and community in young teens. The platform provides a safe space where teens engage, socialize, and feel heard and validated. Peer mentors are either high school seniors or recent high school graduates, who are accomplished young adults with fresh experiences that teens can learn from and relate with. 

Sign up for clubs is simple. Choose a monthly subscription fee of $24.99, or $14.99 if paid annually, for membership. Club sessions are only $19.99, and 100% of this fee goes to the earning and training of peer mentors. For a limited time, Teen Innovators is offering a free 7-day trial for students to try any club of their choosing, free of charge, and with no obligation. Learn more and sign up at https://teeninnovators.com/our-programs/virtual-clubs/.

Contact: Christine Hutchison, Founder
[email protected]
(773) 234 – 5638
Teeninnovators.com

Finding Purpose & a Paycheck through Near-Peer Mentorship

Finding Purpose & a Paycheck through Near-Peer Mentorship

September marks my twelfth month as a peer mentor at Teen Innovators, and I have learned so much from my experience with this wonderful company. When I first heard about Teen Innovators, I wondered what it was and why I should join. What stood out for me was that Teen Innovators is a company run by teens and for teens. We, the peer mentors, meet virtually, one-on-one with younger teens in middle school and high school. We strive to meet the student where they are, whether on a connection or leadership track. Meeting via Zoom, we discuss anything from what high school life is like, to how to reduce the amount of plastic used every day. Teen Innovators is a welcoming and inspiring space for young teens to both develop their big ideas about how to make the world a better place, and also connect with peer mentors, whose closeness in age facilitates a quick connection, and the opportunity to learn more about what’s to come in near-future years.

Meeting with these younger teens has had a profound effect on me during these past several months. Through our meetings, I have formed meaningful bonds with the younger teens. Recently, I was able to help guide two students through their participation in the Chicago Student Invention Convention. We met weekly to discuss their inventions and polish their presentations. When meeting with another student, we discussed ways to promote more racial equality in the world on both a large-scale level and a day-to-day basis. I also met with a teen on the connection track, and we had a lovely conversation, sharing funny stories from school and discussing our hobbies.

Through these experiences, I was surprised at how much I have developed both personally and professionally. By meeting with teens and guiding our conversations, I have become immensely more comfortable talking with new people. I have grown in confidence by sharing at our free-to-the-public ‘Tuesdays with Teen Innovators’ sessions. I have also learned what it takes to begin and maintain a startup company, such as the importance of communication and planning that has been key for keeping Teen Innovators running and growing, especially in this virtual world. I have also developed skills in marketing and learned that keeping up with trending TikToks is not as easy as it sounds! Through both the business and mentoring aspects of the company, Teen Innovators has created a space for me to grow as a leader, as well as make a significant impact on younger teens’ lives.

My time at Teen Innovators has taught me the value of feeling fulfilled and on-purpose in my work. Ultimately, that feels like success to me. Helping younger teens as they look for their own sense of fulfillment and purpose in life, while experiencing that for myself, has been the biggest gift of all.

 

How To Inspire The Next Generation of Teen Innovators

How To Inspire The Next Generation of Teen Innovators

Today’s most successful entrepreneurs think up completely new ways of executing business that often disrupt the status quo. They have the resilience and gain the resources it takes to innovate. By looking to them, we are able to gain an understanding of what it takes to create success in the modern world.

Startup thinking is a crucial skill that can be developed to help young people become the change-makers and success stories of tomorrow. You can invest in your child’s future by helping them look at the world in ways that allow them to unleash their true creative potential.

The economy is changing rapidly, and a future workforce that produces rewarding careers and a thriving economy is developing. Our children need access to the tools needed to meet the challenges and reap the new opportunities presented, and this level of executive functioning is not taught in school.

Heather E. McGowan, future of work strategist, author, and advisor posits that our new emerging economy requires an ‘internally validated identity born of self-awareness and coupled with learning agility and adaptability,’ which points to re-imagining education. Teen Innovators works to bridge the gap, by fostering and encouraging an innovative mindset in young teens and tweens, through mentorship and leadership classes led by highly-accomplished older teens.

 

Encourage your child to develop a startup mindset
Through our work with curious young problem-solvers, we’ve compiled these 5 key components of a startup mindset that you can begin to encourage in your child:

 

Curiosity
Over the past two decades, Elon Musk has launched several multibillion-dollar companies such as PayPal, Tesla and SpaceX. His success as a serial entrepreneur follows an eventful childhood in which a young Musk played with homemade rockets, and coded his own video games.

Ideation and problem solving begins with fostering a curious mindset. If your child is one of those who asks never-ending questions, try not to shut them down. Encourage them by saying, “good question,” and then recommending they do some research on the topics that most interest them. Suggest that they report back to you 3 new things on the topic, to keep it simple and actionable.

 

Possibility
Encourage optimism and ideation with the idea that the universe is filled with infinite possibilities. Try not to shut down their problem-solving ideas. Even Jeff Bezos thought it was only 30% possible that Amazon would succeed.

Entrepreneurs of today must remain open to possibilities, or they risk shutting down their own ideas before they even see the light of day. Suggest they keep a journal of new ideas and issue solutions. On down days, instead of scrolling social, suggest they review their idea journal to see if anything new arises.

 

Disruption
Harvard Business School professor and disruption guru Clayton Christensen says that a disruption displaces an existing market, industry, or technology and produces something new and more efficient and worthwhile. It is at once destructive and creative. Showing kids an example of a disruptive business, such as Airbnb can be helpful, as a way of showing them how applying new technologies can create a completely new business model that requires very little overhead expense.

 

Confidence
Life is one big persuasive argument, and people who approach life with the most confidence are much more likely to get what they want. Encourage your child to release the need to be certain, and really believe in themselves. It’s natural for us to have fears, and successful innovators know how to move past them and continue on their path to success. Even something as simple as the now-famous “power pose,” can help your child overcome anxiety and regain self-confidence ahead of an important meeting, test, presentation or event.

 

Adaptibility
Jeff Bezos famously said, “People who are right a lot, they listen a lot, and people who are right a lot, change their mind a lot.” Innovators have to be open to new ideas and to changing their minds. Innovation starts with a great idea, yet startup thinking requires adaptability to make any changes that are necessary for success. It takes a balance of both conviction and openness. Explain this distinction to your child, and ask them to explain it back to you.

 

Inspiring your child’s innovative mindset
Now that you know how true innovators and disruptors will be the big success stories of tomorrow, here are our 3 top tips to OIL your child’s innovative mindset.

 

Observe
Notice what makes him curious, what he’s drawn to and passionate about, and what problems or issues are particularly upsetting or disturbing to him. Try not to let your own beliefs, preferences, and experience influence their passions. This can be tough, because we adults have our own ideas about success, and sometimes want to live vicariously through our kids.

Young minds have the flexibility to disrupt old ways of doing things, and that is the type of thinking that is most beneficial to nurture. Our peer mentors are trained to let our younger students lead the direction of their mentor sessions, following their interests and passions.

 

Inspire
Talk to your child as much as you can about their areas of interest, and encourage them to develop possible solutions. Point to young people who have had success in a similar field. Showing them other young people who are already creative entrepreneurs can show them what is possible.

Limitations are the mind’s biggest enemy. By inspiring your child and showing her what’s possible, you will encourage the best kind of entrepreneurial mindset. Our peer mentors are trained to validate ideas, by offering a “Yes, And” approach to them.

 

Listen
Really be present with your child. Try to sit down for at least 15 minutes of uninterrupted time to ask them questions, and don’t offer solutions right away. If they’re ‘stuck,’ be sure to offer more than one idea, so there’s still a choice your child can make. By doing this, you’re teaching them discernment and critical thinking, as well as introducing decision-making skills, all key to success in today’s environment. Our peer mentors utilize an ideation funnel process to help them ideate and then narrow the scope of potential solutions to focus on and develop.

 

We hope you will try some of these tips for fostering an innovative mindset in your child. We’d love to hear your success stories and other ideas about how to encourage startup thinking!

 

Christine Hutchison is a serial entrepreneur, mother of two boys, and the founder of Teen Innovators, a mentorship community created to foster innovation in students age 11-16 and provide them with the tools and confidence they need to succeed as leaders of tomorrow. Their peer mentors are highly-accomplished older teens and young adults age 17-21, who are passionate about sharing their knowledge with their younger peers. They also offer free virtual events for teens and their parents. Register here for the next event in our Summer Innovator Series on July 20 at 7 p.m. Central.

Want to discuss a personalized track for your student? Book a 15-minute call with Christine to discuss an individualized track for your child.

 

When Covid Learning Loss & Summer Slide Converge

When Covid Learning Loss & Summer Slide Converge

You might ask yourself, “it’s only 8 or 9 weeks, so do I really need to worry about summer slide?” Spoiler alert: YES. Educators have long known “summer slide” is a thing. The 2021-22 school year will be different, though, because for the first time, summer slide will be layered on top of the effects of “COVID learning loss.” Truth is, we don’t know how far behind our students will be at the start of the new school year, or the full scope of what the ongoing impacts might be. One thing’s for sure: NOW is the ideal time to help your student prepare for a successful school year, and we have 6 tips to help you do just that.

  1. Find an Internship, Volunteer, or Shadow Gig. It’s great for your brain to learn new things, and it’s easiest to learn when you’re passionate about the subject. Find out what makes your student tick by discussing their passions with them. If they’re a little too young for an internship, contact a local business and ask them if your student can shadow for a day. Lots of business owners are flattered when asked, and happy to share their passions with young people. Our peer mentors have the expertise and are trained to help your child explore their passions, and can help them find the perfect summer opportunity, or even create their own.

     

  2. Sign Up for Summer School and/or Summer Camps. There are many in-person and online Summer Enrichment Classes and Leadership programs available. Teen Innovators will offer 5-week online Summer Camps designed for 3 Tracks: High School Prep, College Prep, and Innovation. Beginning July 26, we’ll offer a 1-week, in-person Boot Camp in the city of Chicago, that will combine our best leadership classes from all 3 tracks into a fun and powerful program, just in time to get students back-to-school ready. Join our mailing list to be the first to know when registration becomes available.

     

  3. Try some Hands-On STEM activities. Though we learn in different ways, 75% of us learn best when we do something ourselves. There are many hands-on STEM activities available online. Suggest that your child try one of them, or better yet -share an activity with a younger peer or sibling. Sometimes, teaching is the best way to learn something. Not into STEM? Try a new sport! Getting physical is a great way to feel your best, and gain mental focus.

     

  4. Let them CREATE! Whether it’s cake-baking, gardening or making a YouTube video, our minds expand when we create something. While it’s okay to spend downtime watching t.v., scrolling on social media, or watching YouTube videos, it’s a slippery slope. When you add up the time the average person spends watching t.v., it amounts to more than a decade over a lifetime. Just think about what you could do with 10 years of your life! Explain to your child that, while you’re ok with them taking downtime, you’re not ok with them wasting literally years of life looking at what others are creating. Encourage them to create something themselves. Even if it’s a quick watercolor or batch of cupcakes.
  5. Mmmmmm….cupcakes. Keep on Reading. Even books read for fun are great to help your child read faster, gain comprehension skills, and learn new vocabulary words. Call your local librarian, and let them help you find selections that are different from what you might not find on your own. Hoopla and Overdrive are great apps that can help you download books right to your iPad or tablet with a library card number.

     

  6. Connect with a Peer Mentor. Yes, I know this sounds self- serving. But peer mentoring has been studied and reported to positively impact: social skills, competence, school and peer connectedness, confidence and self-esteem. Our older teen mentors have been fully vetted, and hand-selected for their accomplishments and positive, can-do personalities, as well as their passion and ability to work with young people. Our peer mentors foster strong, caring relationships with their mentees, and encourage them to be confident and successful. Our young mentees report feeling ‘happier’ right from their first mentor session.

When Covid hit last year, we unwillingly welcomed a new normal. And now, as we slowly return to normalcy, it’s possible that some of the old ways of being and learning will never be the same again. Due to a year of Covid remote learning, gaps in the learning process have been exacerbated. And we really don’t know what the long-term impacts of that will be. The convergence of both Covid learning loss and the dreaded summer slide will create a unique situation for students this coming school year. But with the advice above, and some extra grace and understanding, your child will be ready to move forward into an exciting future this fall and beyond.

 

Christine Hutchison, mother of two and Founder of Teen Innovators, with Kate Szczudlo, Manager of Curriculum and Training at Teen Innovators, High School English Teacher and Speech Coach, and mother of three. Teen Innovators is a self-led superb peer mentorship program, created by teens for teens. Providing Leadership and Life Skills your (pre)teen will actually listen to. Sign Up for our program today.

Want to discuss a personalized track for your student? Book a 15-minute call with Christine to discuss an individualized track for your child.