Sometimes, as I sit in my office, I think back to a little over 17 years ago when we were getting ready to launch this new and innovative website we called TeenCentral.Net. At that time, of course, most websites were pretty new. But this one had the chance to affect the lives of teens that needed help. We were very excited, and frankly a little nervous, over taking this new approach.
Well, here we are all those years later, and TeenCentral.Net has helped hundreds of thousands of teens all over the world. It also spawned a new site (ParentCentral.Net) to assist parents through their difficulties, and it’s given many college students and volunteers the opportunity to offer counseling to teens visiting the site. In my opinion, we have much to be proud of.
Since we launched TeenCentral.net on September 8, 1998, teens have used the site to write about whatever is going on in their lives. These are called their “stories,” and over its lifespan TeenCentral.Net can boast of having received more than 250,000 stories from teens all over the U.S. and internationally. It also has received just as many responses to stories. Teens continue to come to TeenCentral.Net seeking support, encouragement and help; they find a place of acceptance where they know they belong and are appreciated for who they are.
Over the years we have helped teens cope with so many issues – the Columbine tragedy, the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, various horrible school shootings, divorces within so many families, deaths of loved ones and just about any other issue that can affect the lives of our teens. We have seen this site, created to be a place where teens can come to get answers and not judgment, grow beyond national boundaries and embrace teens throughout the world. They come to TeenCentral.Net because they know they will get honest support from people who care, from an organization dedicated to helping others get beyond the difficulties they face now to move on with their lives and embrace the future full of hope.
Just as our numbers and reach have grown and changed, so has the age of our teens. When we started back in 1998, the site drew inquiries mostly from 15 – 18 year olds, with some coming from pre-teens and college students. Today, we find ourselves embracing 11-year-olds, and at times even younger children, who are looking for answers to the problems they face at home, in school, among their friends and peers and life in general.
While the age of visitors may have gone down, and the emphasis of stories may change, there are constants. The topics of stress, dating and relationships, friendship, sex and school seem to be a continuing focus. Teens are also very concerned about losing someone to death, teen pregnancy and teen violence. At the same time, topics like gay and lesbian issues, suicide and dealing with bullies have grown in importance more recently, reflecting what is going on in the world around us. Read just a few of the stories on the site, and you’ll see teens are most definitely affected by current events; it takes its toll on their lives and the way they view life in general.
We live in a time of uncertainty and the changes are not always positive. Teens are more apprehensive about their future, fearing at times to be in public places and even worrying about attending school. It is very urgent for communities to be ever vigilant in learning how to protect and assure teens of their safety. TeenCentral.Net can keep watch on the pulse of our teens’ lives, helping our communities become more aware of what is going on in the lives and minds of our youth.
One way is to listen to teens because they are talking and they are sharing – and they want to be heard! TeenCentral.Net not only listens but it is available 24/7 to answer their concerns and to intervene whenever necessary. This is one of the most innovative and constructive uses of the Internet –taking this medium one step further, not only to listen, but to advocate and teach, to answer and reassure.
The goal of TeenCentral.Net is not to become a private therapist, but to help guide the teen through some basic crisis intervention and counseling techniques – techniques that the teen can use to deal more effectively and maturely with future problems and difficulties. Teens tell us that it is very cathartic for them to write their feelings, and knowing there will be an answer from a trained counselor within 24 hours is an added benefit.
In short, TeenCentral.Net provides help and hope so that teens can move forward to a future filled with opportunities and not fall into fear and despair.
As I write this piece, TeenCentral.Net is undergoing a transformation. We have rebuilt the site on new and more effective software which will allow it to grow into the future, and we have redesigned it to make it more interactive and appealing to teens everywhere.
TeenCentral.Net will keep its trademark anonymity, allowing teens to feel safe, secure and protected and thus able to bring any issue or problem without fear of being identified. This has worked for all these years and will continue to be the foundation upon which this site was built and continues to flourish.
From the success of TeenCentral.Net was born ParentCentral.Net. Parents often need someone they can trust, they also need advice on how to parent in a particular situation. They desperately seek to understand their children and this can be very difficult. ParentCentral.Net helps parents to get through difficult times without judgment and ridicule. They are gently guided through situations and problems. This approach works to help parents better understand their children and, with TeenCentral.Net supporting the teen, the result can be very positive.
These two sites provide the best in intervention and prevention at a time when they are most in need. So, whether you are a teen, parent, teacher, therapist or anyone seeking some support and/or help, simply go to www.teencentral.net or www.parentcentral.net and log on. From there, with the help of trained counselors and therapists, you will be guided to, as we have said for 17 years and counting, “work it out.”