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Our Modern Generation: Why we NEED to use stories & images with our children and youth

Our younger generation is the first in many areas. Today’s teens and preteens are among the first generation to not only experience a number of realities, they are creating them. As such, older adults may find it difficult to know how to raise our current generation – the first generation to grow up ‘online’. We need to keep remembering that our younger generation have never known a world where the internet did not exist. Most cannot fathom what it is like to have little or no access to new media tools and devices.

Modern TV and computer screens have rewired their brains. This generation think, act, react, process information and think differently from previous generations. This is why trying to parent our teens and preteens the way we were parented doesn’t work and why we need to use different parenting and teaching methods, such as the deliberate use of stories and images. Parenting through stories and images, just like any skill, needs to be practiced (more on this later).

Known as “screenagers”, “the net generation” or “app generation,” this is the first generation who:

  1. Don’t need adults to get information – For the first time in history, information is everywhere and adults are no longer the givers of information and younger people passive receivers. This generation does not need adults for information. Rather, they need us for interpretation. This is why it is so important to make time to ‘talk to teens and pre-teens’ using stories and images. Oral, written and digital stories and images can assist with the interpretation and assimilation of knowledge using a medium our teens and preteens presently use and are comfortable with.

  2. Are empowered – Children and youth are now active consumers of goods and products (on and offline) and regularly post their thoughts and experiences – making them more empowered than previous generations. Feeling more empowered means our young people will no longer respond to telling and dictating, as parents may have parented previously. Parents, carers, teachers and counsellors need to find other ways to guide today’s teens and preteens. Using stories and images to deliver a message, enables the young person to learn what is appropriate to share and consume – whilst at the same time still feeling empowered.

  3. Are encouraged to have “a voice” and be creative – Societal changes since the 1990s, including the advent of the internet, youth voice movement and celebrating individual diversity means that young people now feel entitled to express themselves and their opinions about issues directly influencing them. Older parents, carers, teachers and counsellors may view this form of creative self-expression as a sign of disrespect when in fact it may be encouraged in other areas of a young person’s life. Stories and images provide a powerful, yet seemingly innocent medium that may be interpreted by the individual, enhancing their creativity and individual expression without creating conflict.

  4. May have little or no ‘down time’ or motivation – Because portable devices travel with them everywhere, young people can receive outside stimulation at any time. They can use new media when they are bored, without the effort of creating their own stimulation. Their nervous systems can become highly stimulated with no ‘down-time’ or they may have reduced internal motivation. Parents and/or carers struggling to increase or reduce their child’s stimulation can use stories and images to decrease distress (negative stress) or increase eustress (positive stress).

  5. Is socially connected at all times, but often connects in isolation – This may be the most ‘connected’ generation in history, but it may also be the most ‘disconnected’ to friends and family. Connecting with your son or daughter, through stories and images, may well be the most effective method to help this generation to learn and connect with you and the outside world.

  6. Learn more from a portable device than a classroom and may have little or no fear – The portable devices our young people carry may now be considered the compass that guides them, rather than authoritarian adult figures. Today’s children and youth consume data, form relationships, and develop their learning and creativity through portable devices – external to their parents, grandparents, teachers, police or other significant adult role models. Parents and carers therefore need to learn about their son or daughter’s world so they can stay ‘connected’ with them. You can do this through sharing ancient and modern multicultural stories and images and future articles will show you how.

In Summary, why do we need to talk to our teens and pre-teens through stories and images?

  • Technological and societal changes have had a significant impact on parenting and teaching today.

  • Empowered teens, the first generation in history to know more than their parents, are more technologically savvy than most of their parents and grandparents.

  • As a result of these changes, young people now require different methods of teaching and parenting.

  • We no longer use methods such as corporal punishment in schools to instill fear into our students and society no longer tolerates parents and teachers using harsh, punitive disciplinary methods.

  • Parents and teachers still need to educate and guide children and youth, however, leaving many teachers and parents clueless about how to effectively parent and teach today’s generation.

  • Parenting, teaching and/or counselling our current generation growing up ‘online’, means that we need to learn to communicate with our teens and preteens in ways they feel comfortable with; including the use of digital stories and images, to improve relationships and deliver important information.

This is the first of a series of articles covering how, where, and when to use stories and images to help our teens and preteens to close the gap and improve their behavioral and mental health. Stories and images, skillfully delivered through oral, written and digital mediums, may well be the most effective method for delivering information and building the relationship with today’s generation. The first step in parenting today’s teens and preteens using stories and images is to understand why it is so important. The second step is to understand how.


Toula Gordillo holds degrees in arts, education and psychology and a Masters in Clinical Psychology. She has extensive professional experience as a clinical psychologist, teacher and guidance officer.

Toula has worked in private practice and schools for twenty years, delivering important social, psychological, historical and cultural information to assist students with a range of short-term interventions and therapies. For more information visit Talk to Teens.

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