Friday, October 5, 2007

Learn How To Speak Teen


Communications company AT&T has put an insert in today's edition (Oct. 4) of the USA Today and previously on Sept. 25, part of the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign. The insert features a cell phone with an indecipherable message. (I sometimes use text messaging, and the ‘teen lingo’ makes no sense to me, even after reading the supposed translation.) On the side of it reads, "Do You Speak Teen?" in a large, eye-catching font. The backside has information and a small quiz to see if you know your teen. Attached to the insert is a tear-off with more information. All but one side has links to either or

Both days the insert has run, it has caught my attention. Both times I have seen them on the floor, dropped and disregarded by students getting their daily dose of headlines. The first time I picked the ad up, it was pretty dirty, so I threw it away. Once again, and in the same location (dining center), it was on the tile floor.

Is this really necessary? I don't mean is this necessary for the advertisement to run, but is our society so disconnected that parents need to be taught by a corporation how to talk to their kids? All of the 'Action Items For Parents of Teens' disturbs me, except for the third, which is only a little troubling.

“• Pick up your teen's mp3 player and go to the "Top 25 Most Played" section. Listen for references to alcohol, drugs or other risky behaviors. Then talk with your teen about what you heard.

• Visit social networking sites like, and browse the profiles of teens your child's age to see what they say, what their interests are and what they are doing online.

• Can you name your teen's favorite TV show? Watch it with him or her and discuss story lines.

• Go to a video sharing Web site and type in "smoking weed." Watch some of the videos. Did you know that your teen might be exposed to these images?”

Let's start at the top and work our way down.

1) My mp3 player does not have a “Top 25 Most Played” list. How do you know if listening to a song is harmful? We all know “Rocky Mountain High” by John Denver, and “Puff the Magic Dragon” by Peter, Paul & Mary are references to smoking a blunt. I don’t know anyone who has said John Denver or Puff and Little Jackie Paper introduced them to pot. Bob Marley can be an exception. "Chronic-what-cles of Narnia" is from a skit on Saturday Night Live. It's a popular skit with teens and young adults, but it doesn't make me want to roll a doobie.

2) Stalk or lurk other children’s online communal space to build a stereotype of how your child is. Why not talk to them up front instead of peering over their shoulder?

3) This is good, for the most part. Spending quality time with your child is very important. Discuss story lines, right. How about this? Be genuinely interested and talk with whatever you want to talk about with your child, and whatever your child wants to talk about with you.

4) Parents have to go to a Web site to understand what “smoking weed” is? Doubt that. I’m pretty sure that teens have been exposed to images of marijuana. But does it make them go out and smoke it? That’s really subject to your child's moral values and susceptibility to peer pressure.

It is important to talk with your child/pre-teen/teen/whatever about drugs. Drug usage can destroy families and future generations. I’m glad to see support for the livelihood of teens and my peers working to be motivators.

Part of the tear-off insert reads, “Teens may be a hard study, but knowing more about their world and the influences around them will help you connect better with your teen.” Your kids should not be research projects but should be an individual masterpiece ‘in progress’. The tenor of the advertisement reads as if teens are just a statistic. And that’s especially what your son(s)/daughter(s) don’t want to be labeled today.

I’m a little confused as to who the demographic for this campaign is, because it’s parental advice from a company that may run your cable and is in the pages of a national newspaper. The idea people have of USA Today readers is subjective, so that doesn’t count. Maybe it’s toward the businessmen and women who wake up at 5 a.m. to commute two hours to work and hardly get to see their kids. Suggestion: I would rather have my parents spend an hour with me than spending an hour searching for profanity, connotations, etc. Don’t be anything but yourself, mom or dad.

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