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How to Communicate with Teenagers, Pt I…

When you figure it out, please tell me. In all seriousness, in order to effectively communicate with someone, you need to have a basic understanding of that person’s frame of reference. Through extensive lecturing at high schools and universities (as well as my niece torturing me by continuously friending and de-friending me on Facebook) it is very clear that the experiences for a teen growing up now is very different than it was for me. How different?

When you figure it out, please tell me.

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In all seriousness, in order to effectively communicate with someone, you need to have a basic understanding of that person’s frame of reference.

Through extensive lecturing at high schools and universities (as well as my niece torturing me by continuously friending and de-friending me on Facebook) it is very clear that the experiences for a teen growing up now is very different than it was for me.

How different?

Thanks to Beloit College, these differences are very clear.  Every year for the past decade, Beloit puts out an annual Mindset List, which “provides a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college.”   The preface of this list illustrates how different a teen’s world is today:

The class of 2012 has grown up in an era where computers and rapid communication are the norm, and colleges no longer trumpet the fact that residence halls are “wired” and equipped with the latest hardware. These students will hardly recognize the availability of telephones in their rooms since they have seldom utilized landlines during their adolescence. They will continue to live on their cell phones and communicate via texting. Roommates, few of whom have ever shared a bedroom, have already checked out each other on Facebook where they have shared their most personal thoughts with the whole world.

It is a multicultural, politically correct and “green” generation that has hardly noticed the threats to their privacy and has never feared the Russians and the Warsaw Pact.

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Some additional gems from this year’s list:

They have always been looking for Carmen Sandiego
GPS navigation systems have always been available
Gas Station have never fixed flats, but most serve cappuccino
WWW has never stood for World Wide Wrestling
Films have never been X rated, only NC-17
Schools have always been concerned about multiculturalism
Students have always been rocking the vote
IBM has never made typewriters
There has always been Pearl Jam
They may have been given a Nintendo Game Boy to play with in the crib
Caller ID has always been available on phones (as has voicemail as opposed to an answering machine)
They never heard a (gas station) attendant ask “Want me to check under the hood?”
98.6 has always been confirmed in the ear
The first key to being able to communicate effectively with someone is the ability to relate, and therefore connect, to that person in some way.  In order to relate, you must first understand, and in order to understand, you must have some frame of reference.  Beloit has done a wonderful job establishing the frame of reference for today’s teen.

Stay tuned for Pt. II….

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