Tag Archives: teenagers

Teens Discover Context and Compassion

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I’m sitting at a café having miso-mushroom soup, processing my meeting with an inner city high school principal about expanding the Mindfulness and Cultural Development program next year. The pilot was so successful; she would like to see it reach the entire freshman class. “I want them to have a full 4 years of support from the pressures they are under!”

“I think they are heroes for just being able to pay attention to their teachers in this academically challenging program. Some of them are dealing with such intense problems at home and in their neighborhoods.” The sole school counselor, serving 550 students with everything from college applications to behavioral interventions, nods her assent.

An image flashes across my mind from earlier this month. A lanky sweet looking girl in a yellow and orange bikini roughly kneed and handcuffed by a burly Texan policeman. The infraction? Going to a pool party.

To be a teenager in an inner-city these days is to be faced with issues far more complicated than first loves or summer jobs at the ice cream shop.

There isn’t an easy answer to the complex social, cultural, economic, environmental, and physical problems that face this next generation. But, there is a potent and profound way to empower our young adults, a way to help them cultivate inner strength for outer stability.

That’s where this innovative program Mindfulness & Cultural Development comes in. With all the benefits of classical mindfulness training, students gain objectivity on the thought process and de-stress through focus and non-judgment. Then they cultivate one more skill, which may make all the difference. They look at their experience in a vast context of cultural and evolutionary development. It’s fun. It’s powerful. And it creates space for heart and compassion in spades.

How does “context” create compassion? Continue reading

4 Stunning Examples of Community Love (Video)

The first definition of community is a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common. The second definition is much more interesting though – a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.  A feeling of fellowship. What does that mean to you? As we look at the different kinds of love that we give this week, what do you consider your community? Do you give back? How do you celebrate it?

The following videos are about people who went above and beyond for the love of those they share a common attitude, interest or goal with. They are community leaders and kids. They start massive construction projects or simply add a little extra joy to their day jobs. The common thread is that they care about the world and people around them, and are taking the time to show it.

Many of the children currently living in Ethiopia have never known a world outside of the HIV/AIDS crisis. It is something that impacts them every day. These teenagers used their phenomenal dancing skills to create a group called the BEZA Anti-AIDS youth group. They travel around the country performing these dances and hand out fliers and information to the crowds that watch them to help create a more educated society and prevent the transfer of AIDS. Talk about using your artistic talents for a good cause.

We all know that hospitals can be a depressing place, but this nurse makes it his mission to give each of his patients something to make them feel warmer and loved. They call him “The Singing Nurse.” It started with him mindlessly singing as he handed out medications and went about regular tasks. Then he realized it was a great way to give his patients some personal care and make them feel special despite their less than enviable situations. It just goes to show how much joy you can bring even in the toughest jobs if you just open your heart.

Jonny Benjamin was 20 years old when he was diagnosed with a mental disorder that left him hopeless for a normal life. So he decided to take his life, but the kindness of one stranger named Mike convinced him not to do it. Instead of committing suicide, Jonny became a campaigner for mental health regulations and research. He’s a leader that tries to shine a light on illnesses that we still don’t fully understand. A few years after that night on the bridge, Jonny started an internet campaign to find Mike, to thank him for saving his life. His story touched millions as the campaign went viral. Above is the video of their second meeting, and proof of what happens when you just take the time to lend an ear.

Your community doesn’t have to just be the people or places around you. We’re all part of a global community because we have this one thing in common – Earth. So it’s important to show love for that too. In Milan they are creating vertical forests to show some love for Lady Earth. Not only does the project beautify a part of town that has become overrun, but it gives a home to over 900 trees per building. Something to pretty, and it benefits the planet? Where do we sign up?

Do you have an example of someone showing love for their community? Share it with us in the comments below!

4 Television Shows That Are Trying to Make You a Better Person

Okay, there’s a lot of crap on television these days. From “reality” shows that follow around people that are famous for simply being rich to competition elimination shows for every possible profession (there was one for America’s Next Top garbage man at one point). So much so that there are probably a lot of people rolling their eyes at this article, but the original purpose of television was to bring families together for entertainment (and to sell washing detergent, but not the point). Shows like Star Trek and The Cosby Show provided family safe entertainment while educating us about the world happening outside of our respective bubbles. Today it seems that if it has any worthy entertainment value that it is worshipping at the altar of the anti-hero (The Sopranos, Dexter, Breaking Bad, Mad Men…) and none of these are really family appropriate viewing, and for the most part they are still telling the stories of well-to-do caucasian males who have diverted from the normal path for varying reasons.

Still, in the middle of all this there are a few shows that are striving to tell new stories in interesting ways. They are getting back to the roots of old school television that strived to teach us valuable lessons about people that are different from ourselves (and that valuable lesson 99% of the time is that they aren’t different from us at all, really). With spring premieres just around the corner, I’ve compiled a list of shows that might strike your fancy or intrigue your curiosity. So get your remotes ready.

1. Orange is the New Black – (Netflix) 

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Okay, this show also falls into the category of not-family friendly, but the inspiration for this list came from a Facebook debate I had about the merit of this show. OITNB centers on Piper, an affluent white girl who hooked up with a lesbian drug lord when she was in college. Ten years later, as she’s planning her wedding to an aspiring newspaper writer in New York City, Piper finds out that her ex girlfriend gave her up and she’ll have to spend a year in prison for aiding and abetting years prior. The show starts with Piper’s first day in prison and we follow as she tries to acclimate to her new surroundings. Then the show takes a sudden turn – instead of allowing us to see the prisoners through Piper’s eyes, which would inevitably leave them painted as caricatures and stereotypes, we visit flashbacks into the past lives of each of them in each new episode. This shows gives in-depth back stories and character arcs to not only women, but women of color and various races. The most intriguing of which is played by Laverne Cox, a transgender woman who plays Sophia, transgender prisoner on the show. Some of the most gripping episodes of the show are the ones that chronicle Sophia’s transition from male firefighter and family man to fierce hairdresser. It doesn’t shortcut around the difficulties Sophia’s family faces in light of the transition, the alienation she feels as her young son struggles to accept that his father is now a woman.

This show is definitely one you want to save for after the kids have gone to bed (or when your parents are out of the room), but the rave reviews you’ve heard aren’t lying when they say you’ll get started and binge watch all 13 episodes in season 1. It’s a harsh look at the lives and stories of a population we so often ignore as part of our society. It humanizes characters that have previously been boxed in by stereotypes and tropes, and they are stories you should hear.

New episodes of OITNB return in 2014. Season 1 can be found on Netflix. 

2. Switched at Birth – ABC Family

Screen shot 2013-12-26 at 10.33.16 AMTo be perfectly honest, I started watching this show expecting it to be another ABC Family guilty pleasure (like it’s predecessors Greek or Make It or Break It), but what I got thoroughly surprised me. While ABC Family has been known to get a little overly preachy and unrealistic with its family dramas (Secret Life of the American Teenager, anyone?) Switched at Birth is the story of two 15 year old girls who discover they were, well, switched at birth. One grew up in the affluent surroundings provided by her retired baseball player father (Bay) and the other grew up with a single mom on the “wrong side of the tracks” (Daphne). When the switch is revealed thanks to Bay’s high school biology assignment, the two families decide to try and raise the girls together to try and make up for lost time with each of them, and naturally conflict arrises.

What makes Switched at Birth really special though is that when Daphne was three years old she contracted meningitis that left her completely deaf. So half the show is told via sign language (with subtitles!). It gives you an inside look at the deaf community like you have never seen unless you’ve been part of that culture. Each actor had to become fluent in sign language for their parts. And last season the show made history by having an entire episode done in sign language. The show requires a whole new dimension of acting by incorporating this new language and showing the nuances of this incredible culture. And since it’s on ABC Family it definitely works for prime time family viewing.

The Switched at Birth spring premiere is January 12 at 8pm on ABC Family. 

3. The Fosters – ABC Family

Screen shot 2013-12-26 at 10.34.41 AMI promise this post is not sponsored by ABC Family, and everyone I know rolls their eyes when I try to convince them of the good work this network is producing in terms of television. The Fosters premiered last summer as the #1 new cable show amongst viewers 12-34, which says a lot when you consider it’s a show about a bi-racial lesbian couple and their mix of adopted children. The groundbreaking thing about The Fosters is that it shows this family as a normal family (because it is!). But this is the first time that a gay couple has served as the primary focus of a primetime show without being the gimmick of a comedy series. Of course there have been shows like Queer as Folk and The L-Word on premium cable, but those served to show the “sexier side” of LGBTQ lifestyle, and definitely not suitable for family watching. This is a serious show about a normal family of mixed races, and the parents just happen to be two women. What.

The most striking thing about the show is how realistic the conversations they have about sexuality, prejudice and race. I got extremely emotional during the episode when Leena’s mother told Leena that she’d never be a real black woman and understand their struggles because she’s only half black. Not only did the issue hit so close to home but I had never seen a television show address it so bluntly or even attempt to address the type of politics that happen between black women over skin color. Then it was such a relief to see these two moms have real conversations with their teenagers about safe sex rather than preaching abstinence and pretending to be shocked when they find out their teenage son didn’t listen. In the wake of so many LGBTQ reforms and the crusade for marriage equality beginning to reach critical mass, The Fosters is doing a remarkable job of giving a realistic look at an LGBTQ family without any jokes, gimmicks or preachiness.

The Fosters returns January 12 at 9pm on ABC Family. 

4. Parks and Recreation – NBC

Screen shot 2013-12-26 at 10.36.08 AMDisclaimer: I absolutely belong to the church of Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, but it’s because they are awesome and stand for really amazing things. Parks and Rec got a bad wrap during it’s first season as being a rip off of the office. When the writing staff of the show heard that audiences thought of Leslie Knope (played by Amy) as ditzy they knew they had to make a change. Rather than changing Leslie’s core personality though, they simply changed the way that people around her reacted to her go-get-em attitude and borderline manic enthusiasm. You have probably seen more than one Ron Swanson meme or a Tom Haverford “TREAT YO SELF” gif around the internet, but make no mistake that this is a show centered on Leslie Knope and the pursuit of her dream to become the first female president.

Parks and Rec makes this list because it’s a show about team work. When discussing this show with my friends (it’s a universal favorite) the point often comes up that it is one of the few shows on television where you root for everyone. The members of the Pawnee parks department walk over coals for each other on a daily basis and in each episode all you want is for them to succeed. You have a genuine emotional love for each of them, and it mirrors the affection they have for each other. It’s a show about building people up rather than tearing them down. It’s also about empowering women and showing them in positions of authority, breaking glass ceilings and refusing to take no as an answer when it comes to achieving their dreams. Just as Leslie covers her city hall office with pictures of her female political inspirations, every ambitious, driven girl out there should carry around a picture of Leslie. Not to mention it is one of the funniest shows on the air right now, and then remember that Amy also writes and directs several of the episodes.  This show stars a woman who is doing it all about a woman who is doing it. Win.

Parks and Recreation returns for it’s 100th episode on January 7 at 8:30 PM on NBC.

What shows do you watch with your family that you think should make the list? Share with us in the comments below! 

3 Young Adult Books that Will Make You a Better Grown Up

The third week of October is annually celebrated as “Teen Read Week.” Since young adult fiction is in a golden age and having a large impact on our mainstream media (see: Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Twilight, etc) we thought we’d take a look at the section of the book store you normally leave to teenage girls.

NYT Best-selling author John Green says he has no interest in writing about adults because they are too cautious with their emotions. By writing stories about teenagers Green is able to ask and answer the tough questions directly without having to duck around the bush – teenagers go all in when it comes to their hearts and their curiosity. Through those qualities we as adults are able to be more honest with ourselves as to the questions we have about life, love, and the world we live in. Hence the reason for this list. Actually, speaking of John Green, let’s start with him.

 

1.) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.faultinourstarsbookcover

Story:  Hazel Grace Lancaster has terminal cancer. Though doctors have miraculously found a way to stop the disease from spreading she knows she only has a limited time left and her life is defined by being a cancer patient. That’s until she meets Augustus Waters. They fall in love, go on an adventure and break your heart in every conceivable way. Obvious warning: keep a box of Kleenex with you at all times while reading this book.

Why you should read it: If you think about it, we all have the same death sentence as Hazel, hers is just sooner than most of ours. Still, Hazel’s decision to live her life to her fullest capability no matter if she has a few months, days or weeks left is inspiring. TFiOS isn’t about cancer, it’s about life. It’s about lowering our defenses to allow the important people in our lives to <i>really</i> matter. It’s about letting yourself to feel – the good, the bad, all of it – because if you don’t it doesn’t matter when your terminal date is, you’re not living anyway.

Similar reads: “Looking for Alaska” – John Green, “Everyday” – David Levithan  & “You Know Where to Find Me” – Rachel Cohn

 

the-hunger-games-wallpaper-logo-2560x16002.) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Story: To pay for the sins of uprisers 74 years before them, the citizens of the Panem districts must nominate one boy and one girl every year to participate in the Hunger Games – a sadistic, caged battle to the death for those unlucky enough to be chosen until only one “victor” remains. Katniss Everdeen volunteers as tribute for District 12 to save her sister Primrose from having to go in. As Katniss does everything she can to survive, she unknowingly sparks a revolution that could bring her entire system of life to its knees.

Why you should read it:  There is the obvious argument that by not reading these books (seeing the movies isn’t the same!) you are literally living under a rock. There is more to it than being pop-culturally relevant though. “The Hunger Games” is a story of human nature – how if we go unchecked humans have a disgusting habit of letting our egos destroy ourselves. By sparking the revolution Katniss has an inside look at how societies corrupt themselves, and has to find the strength within herself to stop the cycle from repeating. Most of us can’t relate to toppling governments or taking down dictators, but we can all learn something from breaking negative patterns and making choices to provide ourselves, and those we care about, with a better life.

Similar reads: “Divergent” – Veronica Roth & “The Maze Runner” – James Dashner

 

3.) Eleanor & Park by Rainbow RowellEleanorPark_thumb

Story: Eleanor is invited back to live with her mother after being kicked out by her abusive step-father for over a year. Every day she has to struggle to stay under the radar from his rage, while protecting her younger siblings and begging their mother to leave. Her life at home and her family’s complete lack of budget make it difficult for her to fit in at school – to the point Eleanor just wants to be invisible. Instead, she meets Park who shares his seat with her on the bus. It starts as a casual sharing of comic books so neither of them has to talk but inevitably they fall in love, and so starts the mission to save Eleanor from her hell at home and for Park to truly find himself.

Why you should read it:  It’s easy to be cynical of teenage love stories. They are too young to know better, right? “Eleanor & Park” proves that teenage naivety actually allows teenagers to fall deep enough into love to find strength and change the world, or at least the world around them. The beautiful thing about Eleanor and Park as characters is that they aren’t perfect. She isn’t a shy and clumsy, but strikingly beautiful damsel in distress. Park isn’t the smarter-than-he-wants-everyone-to-know athlete who gives a chance to the new girl. They have flaws, large ones. They have problems that are even bigger. There’s a quote that says “Love isn’t finding the perfect person, it’s seeing an imperfect person perfectly.” And these kids nail it on the first try. “Eleanor & Park” teaches us to love as deep as we can, no matter how scary it is. It’s a book about trust and inner strength and you find the people who will matter the most to you by being yourself.  By falling in love Eleanor and Park stop trying to blend in and allow themselves to really be seen for the first time.

Similar reads: “The Spectacular Now” – Tim Tharp & “Paper Towns” –  John Green

This is by no means a definitive list. What are your favorite young adult books? Was it “Catcher in the Rye” or something newer? Tell us in the comments below!

“My Last Days”: 17-Year-Old Zach Sobiech Dies of Cancer, But Not Before Becoming a Rock Star

“What makes you happy is seeing someone else smile because you put it there. That’s what’s awesome about living in this world.” -Zach Sobiech

At age 14 Zach Sobiech was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer that primarily affects children and teenagers. At 17, Zach’s doctors told him he only had a few more months to live, and he was determined to make the most of it. Zach passed away yesterday, May 20, but his legacy will live on.

In this inspiring and intimate documentary produced by SoulPancake, Zach discusses his motivation to become a musician in the remaining time he had and his process in producing the viral YouTube music video, “Clouds.” Take a moment to watch the short documentary, listen to some of Zach’s music, and celebrate this young man’s amazing life.

Here is “Clouds” by Zach Sobiech:

Zach’s family has requested that anyone inspired by his story and interested in showing their support consider donating to their Osteosarcoma research fund.

Rape Culture: Bay Area Teens Publish Exposé and End Up on NPR

1-art-verde-rape-culture-coverRape is a heavy topic for teenagers to take on in a school magazine or newspaper. Some might even say it’s too advanced or inappropriate in such a setting. The reality, though, is that 80% of rape victims are under the age of 30; and 44% are under 18. So perhaps the problem is that teenagers aren’t discussing this critical issue enough.

In the latest edition of Palo Alto High School’s Verde Magazine, several brave young journalists confronted rape culture head on, focusing specifically on two recent cases from their own school community. The featured piece, “You can’t tell me I wasn’t raped” by Lisie Sabbag, discusses at length the ways in which victims are often blamed for their attacks (and called names like “attention whore,” “liar,” and “slut.”) According to an online survey cited in the article, more than 25% of students questioned agreed that a woman who is raped while drunk is responsible for her assault. These numbers are deeply troubling. By silencing victims, protecting perpetrators, and ascribing to a “boys will be boys” ideology, Sabbag argues, both boys and girls – and society at large – perpetuate a culture of rape.

The nature of high school journalism, even in the largest of schools (Paly hovers around 1,800 students), is that the community is small. Those affected by a certain piece of news in New York City are bound to be dispersed and often anonymous. In a high school setting, almost everyone is affected in some way, and anonymity is not always guaranteed. Sabbag took measures to ensure the two girls included in the article remained anonymous, along with their attackers – also members of the community. But it is a delicate topic in the hands of an unpredictable audience, and too many victims have further suffered from the coverage of their attacks.

But as the students discussed this morning on NPR’s “Forum,” they believe it is essential to create public discourse around sexual assault and rape culture. We applaud these young journalists for confronting the issue courageously and tactfully, and hopefully their work will inspire broader discussion about rape in our culture.

 

Photo credit:  Paly’s Verde Magazine Staff

How NY Teens Use Yoga to Overcome Domestic Violence

One in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Men make up roughly 15% of domestic violence victims. And about 75% of Americans personally know someone who is or has been the victim of such abuse.

But statistics don’t paint an accurate picture. For many who read this article, domestic violence is a current reality, a past traumatic experience, or witnessed through a friend trapped in a toxic relationship. What you might not know is how young the victims of domestic violence can be. These patterns can begin as early as middle school and high school, in the some of the first relationships of a person’s life. Today’s episode of URBAN YOGIS on The Chopra Well features New York teenagers who have been or are at risk of becoming victims of domestic violence. The students are participants in RAPP (the Relationship Abuse Prevention Program) which falls under the Center Against Domestic Violence. RAPP educates teenagers about  relationship abuse and works to rehabilitate those who have already experienced the effects of violence. As it turns out, one of the techniques employed in this endeavor is yoga.

Teenagers in the RAPP program learn the many faces domestic violence can assume – from jealousy and possessiveness to full-on physical abuse. They also develop the vocabulary to discuss these issues, and the confidence and self-esteem to demand respect in their relationships. As a way of fostering physical and emotional strength, interested students receive weekly yoga lessons from Ashtanga instructor Eddie Stern, which gives them the opportunity to develop stress reduction and self-soothing techniques. And after breathing through difficult sequences and allowing themselves to rest in the final moments in Savasana pose, they can return to their iPods and friends and teenage lives with a growing sense of their own strength and power to overcome.

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8 Depression Busters For Teens

 

Teenagers are moody. Absolutely. Fluctuations in hormones cause angry outbursts, irritability, emotional hysteria, defiant behavior, and weepiness. So it’s very difficult to tease apart teenage drama from legitimate depression and other mood disorders. However, it’s worth the effort because depression and other mood disorders that begin in adolescence often become much more serious and difficult to treat as adult disorders.

A 1996 study by the National Institute of Mental Health estimated that more than 6 percent of adolescents, between the ages of 9 and 18 years old, suffered from depression during the six-month period of the study, and almost five percent suffered from major depressive disorder. Moreover, many of the 20 percent of people who suffer from depression at some point in their lives have experienced depression as teenagers. I am part of that statistic, as my symptoms were definitely there in my adolescent years, and, had I been treated for depression at that time, I may not have developed such a severe mood disorder in my adult life. Here are eight tips teenagers might use to manage their depression.

1. Get the Right Diagnosis

In his book, “Adolescent Depression,” Francis Mark Mondimore, M.D, a psychiatrist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, compares getting the right diagnosis of a mood disorder to discovering a piece of real-estate in a prime location. In other words, swap the phrase “location, location, location” with “diagnosis, diagnosis, diagnosis” because it is by far the most important factor in trying to get help for your mood disorder. A proper diagnosis is the foundation upon which a treatment program is built, so if you’re starting with the wrong one, your attempts at getting well are severely jeopardized.

2. Find the Right Doctor or Therapist

The second most important thing you can do is to find the right doctor and the right therapist for you. Don’t settle. If there is any question in your mind, then go for a second opinion. I can’t stress this point enough because I am convinced I would never have gotten well had I stayed with any of the doctors I visited before finding the right one for me. It takes energy, effort, and time. But so does depression and anxiety—they can rob you years of your life. If your psychiatrist or therapist is threatened by your seeking a second opinion, that’s all the more reason to shop elsewhere, because a good doctor will welcome another objective opinion and appreciate the homework done on your behalf. You may only need your doctor for a few months or a year, but it’s good to think long term anyway. Would you feel comfortable seeing this person for a few years? If not, start shopping.

3. Notice the Negative Thoughts

Can you hear your negative talking? “I’m a failure.” “I should give up.” “He hates me.” These thoughts manipulate our feelings, so that what begins as a negative thought ultimately leads to real symptoms of depression and anxiety. However, the good news is that by merely recognizing them, we’ve won half the battle. Dr. David Burns lists ten forms of distorted thinking in his bestseller, “Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy.” Among them are all-or-nothing thinking (“There is nothing useful about this class”), overgeneralization (“It’s ALL bad”), jumping to conclusions (“They think I’m a loser”), and “should” statements (“I should have learned it by now”).

4. Outsmart the Brain

In her insightful book, “Freeing Your Child From Negative Thinking,” Tamar Chansky explains how, with some exercising, you can outsmart your brain. She explains:

The brain has two sides, which respond to very different input. When we are afraid or confronted with a negative situation, circuits in our right prefrontal cortex are firing away, whereas in more positive situations the action is in the left brain. The left prefrontal cortex is active when there is something safe to approach, whereas when the right side is buzzing, as with anxiety or negative thoughts, we avoid or don’t approach. The goal is to create passageways, a bridge over troubled water … to travel from one side of the brain to the other. The more [you] practice switching perspectives, the more automatic that action will become, and overtime, [the] brain will learn to switch on its own.

5. Eat Mood Boosters

Just as certain foods and drinks can lead to depression—processed white flour, sweets, caffeine, sodas—others actually lift your mood. Many studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids are mood lifting agents that can alleviate depression. Some foods that are rich in omega-3: oily fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines; ground flaxseeds, walnuts, and omega-3 fortified eggs. Vitamin B 12 and Folate are also important for mood. Some scientists believe that these vitamins create serotonin, which normalizes mood. Vitamin D also increases serotonin and can be especially helpful with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Milk and soy milk are full of Vitamin D, as are egg yolks and fish with bones.

Philanthro-Teens On The March

 On April 14, I’m moderating a panel at the Global Philanthropy Forum http://www.philanthropyforum.org/forum/Default.asp on the rise for next wave of makers and doers. Unlike previous generations, today’s "Philanthro-Teens" are characterized not by apathy or entropy, but driven by a sense of purpose and possibility in tackling challenges from water scarcity and malaria eradication to ending child marriage.  

 
These digital denizens are used to controlling and curating their own relationships to information, resources, and possibilities.  They have grown up accustomed to collaborating with (rather than responding to) power structures, such as media outlets and corporate brands.  They yelp the truth, co-create content, and answer their own questions, with ideas that often amaze the rest of us by their sheer creativity and influence.
 
This is certainly true on the realm of social action. Teenagers may be inspired by leaders like Ted Turner and Bill Gates, but they respond like Mark Zuckerberg. They build fundraising campaigns, make grants, spread awareness, and drive results in novel, compelling, and authentic ways, according to a map patterned only with these self-affirmed directions: make it real, make it matter.
 
The youth action pioneers presenting at my panel are MTV correspondent SuChin Pak, Facebook marketing director Randi Zuckerberg, and high school senior and GirlUp.org teen advisor Lily Kaplan. Each plays a critical role in inspiring and enabling teens to change our world for the better. Their collective efforts not only empower impacts, they amplify and publicize possibilities, drawing ever more teens into a more conscious and confident approach to the future.
 
To me, this is the biggest news in philanthropy since Warren Buffet pledged to give his fortune away to charity. Traditional foundations and global brands will ignore the rise of Philanthro-Teens to their peril. Research confirms what we already know, Moms and Dads will give more to charity and purchase more consciously when encouraged to do so by their daughters and sons. This stuff matters. Our round blue world is struggling with so many problems and we cannot afford to squander the greatest resource we have. A young imagination twinned with leadership and organizing skills, amplified by media and social networks, and boosted by private sector and community support, can be an unparalleled engine of change.
 
And just imagine this: these and other activists are committed to giving kids everywhere — girls, in particular — a fair chance at education, health care, and freedom from poverty and violence. Picture the possibilities of all the entrepreneurial energy pouring forth from American Philanthro-Teens flowing just as freely in Liberia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, and beyond.  Those kids have the same hunger for change and now it’s their brothers and sisters thousands of miles away, who are stepping up to help feed it. They deserve much more than our thanks and applause. They’ve earned our backing in every way.
 
My hope for the future: that there will be many conference panels full of social activists from countries targeted by these Philanthro-Teens talking about how together, as a generation, they are transforming the world right before our eyes.
 
 
 
 

 

Keep Your Teenage Kids (and Yourself) From Getting Depressed: Decrease Internet Surfing Time

Here is a recent research study that we all already know intrinsically: internet addicts, especially teenagers, are more likely to develop depression. According to Reuters, teenagers who are excessive internet users are one and a half more times likely to develop depression than moderate internet surfers.

And what are the warning signs that separate a serious internet addict from the run-of-the-mill Facebook junkie? 

  • You spend 5 to 10 hours in front of the computer.
  • You feel agitated when you are not in front of the computer.
  • You have lost interest in real-life social interaction.

Here’s the scary part: young adults who previously did not seem to have any mental health problems got depressed when their internet use became chronic and excessive over a long period of time: 

The study involved 1,041 teenagers aged between 13 and 18 years in China’s southern Guangzhou city who were free of depression at the start of the investigation.

Nine months later, 84 of them were assessed as suffering from depression and those who were on the Internet excessively were one-and-a-half times more vulnerable than moderate users.

"Results suggested that young people who are initially free of mental health problems but use the Internet pathologically could develop depression as a consequence," wrote Lam, who co-authored the paper with Zi-wen Peng at the Sun Yat-Sen University’s School of Public Health in Guangzhou.

The article also goes onto say that internet addiction is oftentimes linked to lack of sleep or irregular sleep patterns, and irregular sleep is a major contributing factor for depression. Think of that the next time you find yourself in the wee hours tending your virtual livestock on Farmville.

Though a complete offline hiatus from the virtual world is difficult, there are many handy tips and tricks all of us can incorporate into our daily lives to limit our internet time for really important things so we aren’t completely slaves to the machine: 

– Make a point to NOT start or end the day with something that involves the internet. In the morning: exercise, meditate, or eat breakfast before you check your e-mail. In the evening: wind down with a book or write in your journal instead of checking your Facebook.

– Have a cut-off time in the evening for checking your e-mail. Such as no e-mail-checking after 10PM.

– Check your e-mail only at certain times, rather than all the time. Some people find it useful to have specific e-mail check-in points once in the morning, the mid-afternoon and the evening rather than checking it obsessively every 10 minutes.

– Consciously schedule pockets of unplugged time in your free time, especially on weekends. What’s the best way to go offline? When you have so many fun activities to do that doesn’t involve the internet. When you know you have a museum trip, a baseball game, a dinner with old friends scheduled on your agenda, you won’t fall to your default mode of stalking your high school ex on Twitter or getting sucked into the vortex of celebrity gossip blogs.

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / colorful_otherwise

 

 

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