The President and First Lady today will host the first-ever White House Conference on Teenagers. The conference will include parents, teens, policy makers and other experts who will discuss the importance of the teenage years in the social and intellectual development of children. Like the White House Conference on Early Learning and Childhood Development in 1997, today’s gathering will underscore some of the common misconceptions that parents have about the teenage years and will offer strategies for raising responsible and resourceful youth. Conference participants will highlight ways in which parents, schools, businesses, the media and others in the larger community can support children during this critical stage of life.
The President and First Lady will announce several new steps the Administration is taking to better understand the teenage years and provide the support that America’s teens need.
TODAY’S TEENS AND THEIR PARENTS
Report Shows Good Signs for Today’s Teens and Indicates that Parental Involvement is Key in Raising Responsible and Resourceful Youth. The President will release a new report by the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, Teenagers and their Parents in the 21st Century: An Examination of Trends in Teen Behavior and the Role of Parental Involvement. This report outlines positive trends for today’s teenagers, including increases in student achievement, college access, and participation in community service, as well as declining rates of pregnancy, teen suicides, and homicides. The report concludes that teenagers whose parents are engaged and involved in their lives are more likely to excel in school and avoid risk behaviors. The report also makes clear that many challenges continue to confront America’s teens: college opportunities remain more elusive for Hispanic youngsters and those from low-income families; the number of teens who smoke and eat poorly is increasing; and, in states where teens have greater access to guns, teen suicide and homicide rates are on the rise.
Poll Shows Teens Want More Time with Parents, Parents Worried About Outside Influences on Teens. A YMCA of the USA poll commissioned for the White House Conference and conducted by Global Strategy Group shows that, despite the positive trends highlighted in the CEA report, parents are anxious about the well-being of their teenagers. They rate drugs, alcohol, and violence among their top concerns. By contrast, teenagers rate "not having enough time together" with parents and education as their top issues. The poll reveals that: many families are unable to eat meals together more than a few times a week; many teens watch television and surf the Internet without parental supervision; and many parents wish they had more quality time with their teens.
New Brain Research Suggests that Early Adolescence is a Critical Time of Development. The First Lady will highlight preliminary research conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health indicating that the cognitive portion of the brain goes through a critical second wave of development just before puberty. Although the total size of the brain is already 95% of its adult size by the first grade, the new research shows that the gray matter of the brain thickens as the brain cells grow extra connections. This process peaks at about 11 years in girls and 12 years in boys, after which excess connections are "pruned," resulting in a thinning of the gray matter. This exciting new finding implies that the early years of adolescence are pivotal years for determining the make-up of the adult brain.
TOOLS FOR PARENTS OF TEENS
Ensuring Workplaces that Do Not Discriminate Against Parents. The President, today, will sign an Executive Order to bar discrimination against parents in the federal workplace. This Executive Order mirrors the "Ending Discrimination Against Parents Act of 1999," which the President announced in his 1999 State of the Union address. Legislation was introduced on November 10, 1999, by Senators Dodd and Kennedy. The Order would bar discrimination against parents in all aspects of employment, including recruitment, referral, hiring, promotions, discharge, and training. The Order would also prohibit employers in the Executive Branch from acting on assumptions that parents, or those with parental responsibilities, cannot satisfy the requirements of a particular position. The Order would not interfere with an employer’s ability to select workers; it would simply ensure that workers are not discriminated against simply because they are parents. Guidance on this Executive Order will be provided by the Office of Personnel Management.
Urging Support for Parents to Spend Time with Their Teens. Research to be discussed at the Conference shows that teens whose parents are active and engaged in their lives are more likely to avoid risky behavior and to do better in school. Today, the President and First Lady will announce a number of steps to help parents and teens spend more time together:
Task Force on "Navigating the New Media Age". Today, the First Lady will announce a public-private effort to provide tools for parents and teens to find resources through the media and to help parents monitor their teens’ use of the media. The task force plans to complete its work within six months and will: establish an Internet site that provides a one-stop information site for parents of teenagers, including a newly developed federal effort, "Parenting Resources in the 21st Century" www.parentingresources.ncjrs.org; work with the media and entertainment industry to develop one web-site where parents can find comprehensive information on current media ratings systems; establish a portal for teenagers that would include non-commercial, teenager-friendly resources on the Internet; and provide guidance to local communities on how to set up one-stop information centers that list services, hotlines, and community opportunities to teenagers and their parents through toll-free numbers and local web sites.
- Time with Your Teens Campaign. The President and First Lady will announce a new public education campaign to raise awareness about the importance of parent-teen time, including family mealtime. The National Partnership for Women and Families, along with the Families and Work Institute, will organize a national coalition to develop a public education campaign around this issue. The campaign will highlight the importance of business support for family time, the need for continued parental involvement in middle school and high school, and a challenge to parents and teens to make more time for one another.
- Family Meal Time for Federal Workers. In the federal workplace, the Office of Personnel Management will raise awareness among parents of teenagers about family-friendly tools that they can use, including flexible work schedules, job sharing and the use of leave, in order to make family time a priority. In addition, OPM will encourage agencies to provide information about teen development and teen issues at the workplace. Agencies may also hold seminars and establish support groups for parents of teenagers.
- Expansion of FMLA. The President and the First Lady will also renew their call for Congress to pass an expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act to allow eligible workers an additional 24 hours of leave to meet family responsibilities, such as parent-teacher conferences.
The following partners are members of this task force: Center for Media Education, American Psychological Association, America’s Promise, Children’s Defense Fund, National Network for Youth, United Way of America, and GetNetWise.
Tips for Parents. Parents want to know how they can best nurture and raise their children to avoid risky behaviors, including drug, alcohol and tobacco use, sex, and violence. For the first time, a coalition of prevention campaigns has joined forces with the federal government to offer strategies for parents. Parents Matter: Tips for Raising Teenagers was jointly produced by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the National Campaign Against Youth Violence, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In addition, the U.S. Department of Education, in partnership with the Afterschool Alliance, will release the Afterschool Parent Action Kit to help parents identify, create or improve afterschool programs in their communities in order to provide safe and enriching places for teenagers in the non-school hours.
TOOLS FOR TEENS
A Web Resource for Teens. The President will announce a new web site for teenagers, www.americasteens.gov. The site provides a gateway to federal and other publicly supported web sites for teens. With this new web site, teens can find information to help them do their homework, pursue a hobby, or choose a career. The site was developed by 17 federal agencies supported by Vice President Gore's National Partnership for Reinventing Government and the General Services Administration. The President will also direct federal agencies to expand educational material for youth on their own websites and to assure that all federally-supported websites for youth comply with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act and relevant federal regulations.
Communication Tips for Teens. As part of this conference, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will release a guide to help teenagers identify people to whom they can open up and strengthen teen communication with each other, their parents and other caring adults. It will be distributed through community-based organizations and through the National Clearinghouse for Family and Youth.
FOLLOW-UP TO TEEN CONFERENCE
Youth Summit. The Corporation for National Service, together with two dozen other national organizations, will host a National Youth Summit, entitled "Young People: Partners in Fulfilling the Promise," June 22-25 in Orlando, Florida. Up to 1,000 teens and adults who work with them will attend the summit to build their skills and develop action plans for young people to play a role in meeting the needs of their communities.
Leadership on Reinventing the American High School to Better Serve Teens. Over 1,000 teachers, principals, policymakers and parents will gather in Washington, D.C. from June 14-16th to attend a "Reinventing High School" conference hosted by U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley. All across America, millions of young people are coming of age and are entering high schools in record numbers. In the next ten years, the number of high school graduates will increase by seventeen percent. If America's high schools are to be ready to prepare all of these young people for the 21st century, many experts are rapidly coming to the conclusion that the American high school, as we know it, needs to be reinvented. This conference will explore options for reforming American high schools. It is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, Southern Regional Education Board, Jobs for the Future, Sonoma State University, the California Department of Education, and the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership.