Using Education to Help Young People Look Outwards

Five young people with backpacks, turned away from the camera looking at the Eiffel Tower in the distance.

10 Ways to Help Our Teens Become Better Global Citizens

Our young people are looking inward – their lives controlled by algorithms on their mobile devices, controlling what they see, when they see it.

Recent studies in the USA and other Western countries reveal that only about a quarter of teenagers are able to name basic continents and seas of the world, or locate where certain countries are in the world. Even fewer are aware of important global issues such as geopolitics, conflicts and political upheavals. They are often unaware of who their country’s leader is, or who the leaders of other important nations are.  In 2018, the American Psychological Association reported that less than 20% of American teenagers reported reading a newspaper, magazine or book on a daily basis. In 2019, a survey by Common Sense and Survey Monkey found more than half of teens (54%) get their news from social media platforms and 50% get their news from YouTube. In 2018, researchers at San Diego State University found that only about 2% of teens read a newspaper on a regular basis. Even more alarming is that the percentage of young people reading anything at all, or even just watching regular TV in the living room has declined rapidly over the last 30-40 years.

These are frightening statistics because our young people are the future of our world. We have to encourage them to look outwards and really understand what is happening in the wider world. Yet technology is so pervasive that it’s really difficult to get young people to look up from their algorithm-locked device and reach out to something bigger and better than what’s on their screen right now.

There are ways we can do this and it’s so important to build this resilience into our teens’ lives so they are better-equipped to forge their own innovative path into adulthood.

  1. Encourage them to participate in community service or volunteer work. This can help them understand the needs of others and the importance of giving back to the community.
  2. Encourage them to travel and explore new places. This can help them gain a broader perspective on the world and become more open-minded.
  3. Encourage them to engage in activities that expose them to different cultures and backgrounds. This can include joining a multicultural club, studying abroad or participating in exchange programs.
  4. Encourage them to read books, watch movies and consume media that exposes them to different perspectives.
  5. Encourage them to have conversations with people from different backgrounds, cultures and perspectives.
  6. Encourage them to be active in social and political issues.
  7. Encourage them to be part of a group or team that promotes diversity, equity and inclusion.
  8. Encourage them to be open to different opinions and perspectives, and to be willing to challenge their own beliefs and assumptions.
  9. Encourage them to engage in open-minded, respectful and non-judgmental communication with others.
  10. Lead by example. Show them how to be more outward-looking in your own behavior and attitude.

The good news is that some of the above steps can even be done digitally.

Why not try some of these ideas?

  • Challenge your teen to research or read about a country they have never visited.
  • Send them links to YouTube videos you’ve found about living in another country.
  • Point them to the websites or Twitter accounts of well-known activists.
  • Get your teen to send you an email telling you about a person, place or issue that they have discovered today.
  • Get them to read an online news website and comment on an article that they have an opinion on.
  • Give them some community service websites to visit and ask them to search for some new ones and send them back to you.

Today’s digital world offers more opportunities than hazards for your teen – if you know where to look.

Hopefully these strategies have given you some good ideas as to how you can broaden your child’s mind and help them look outwards.

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