A teen center gives teenagers a safe place to socialize and hang out and reduces the chances that they'll engage in criminal behavior, according to a 2011 article published in the American Journal of Community Psychology. Teen centers also help reduce the chances that teens will engage in other risky activities, such as unprotected sex and alcohol use. Teens want certain features in their center, and when these are included, more teens will spend their free time there and less time being bored and getting into trouble.
Teens won't spend time in a teen center if there's nothing for them to do. As such, teens want entertainment. Most teen centers have at least one television, as well as a selection of age-appropriate movies. Many centers also have video game systems and computers that can be used to play games and surf teen-appropriate websites. Teen centers might also keep a collection of board games and puzzles, as well as a selection of books. Many teens enjoy artistic pursuits, so some teen centers keep paper and pencils for drawing, as well as other craft supplies for more elaborate creations. Food is another piece of the entertainment puzzle, and most teens want a center where they can enjoy a snack or meal with their friends, according to the Vermont Coalition of Teen Centers.
Teens want a place to be active and interact with their friends. Teen centers should incorporate physical activities into their programs to meet this need. Perhaps the teens would enjoy a game of basketball or tennis. The equipment to play these games should be available to teens so they can cooperate as part of a team, as well as get regular exercise. Workout DVDs, jump ropes and hand weights might also have a place in a teen center. A ping pong or foosball table is another way to encourage teens to interact while also getting some exercise.
An important component of a successful teen center is a place for teens to relax and spend time pursing quiet activities. Of course, a designated spot to do homework is a must. The area should be stocked with the pencils, paper and other materials teens need to do their homework. Quiet areas to read a book or have a phone conversation are also important to many teens. These quiet areas also allow teens to talk to each other, as well as have private conversations with caring adults who staff the teen center.
Many teens spend time in centers because their parents are absent at home because of work or other activities. Since teens definitely notice the absence of their parents, they want other caring adults to whom they can turn when they need a listening ear or advice. Teen centers must be staffed at all times, but careful selection of counselors and other adults will provide teens with the guidance they need to navigate the world of high school, college selection and peer interactions. according to Barton J. Hirsch, author of "After-School Centers and Youth Development: Case Studies of Success and Failure."
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