My daughter, who is nearly 12, received a notice about a summer camp. It said:
Become immersed in a week of adventure, peer bonding, and community building. Challenges include orienteering, rock climbing, sea kayaking, and camping. Mobile camps–every day is a field day! Small group sizes–14 campers max! Ages 11-14. Rite of Passage!
Was that description written for her, or her parents?
I asked my daughter whether the camp sounded good. She gave a thumbs up (that is how she shows she likes something) to orienteering, rock climbing, and sea kayaking. She frowned at camping. She was not sure what mobile camps were, but she did not like the sound of them. She did not know what "rite of passage" meant. I asked what she thought of the idea of "peer bonding." She said, "It’s okay if it’s with your friends." Community building? Ho hum.
As a communication with a young teen, this notice failed. As a message for a parent, it is passable.
How can you write successfully to young teens? Ask some young teens. Find out what appeals to them, what does not appeal, and what language they use.
The Seattle Public Library has a summer teen program that speaks a teen’s language. First off, programs focus on food. Events at the library are called "Doughnut Drop-In," "Cupcake Break," and "Pizza Finale," each featuring a teen’s favorites:
Celebrate the end of summer with pizza, books and fun! Drop off a book review. Haven’t been up to see the roof lately? Join the tour after the program.
Even "Movie Madness" focuses on food, with this description:
Enjoy snacks and an assortment of interesting documentary and anime movies throughout the summer!
There is no peer bonding or community building at the library–it’s all online gaming, urban legends, and book discussions with root beer floats.
When you write to teens, write to teens. Send their parents a different message.