In Tim Elmore’s free ebook about why images are effective (available for download here), he encourages anyone trying to teach or instruct teens to utilize the tremendous power of right-brained education. While the human brain has always been wired in a way that creates a more powerful emotional response to images and narratives than mere words of instruction, for today’s generation of “screenagers,” it’s even more significant.
Their great, or great-great grandparents read the newspaper for daily updates, talked on telephones to communicate, went to the library and used encyclopedias for research, and were easily entertained while merely listening to radio dramas unfold. Today’s teens, however, don’t know a world in which they lack instant access to information and real-time updates via smartphones and social media. YouTube and big-screen TVs make HD video the norm for entertainment.
While these factors don’t change the capacity of this generation’s brain, they do contribute to its tendency toward processing right-brained input over left-brained information.
No matter what era or generation, all humans respond more significantly to images than to words. Consider the following numbers that Elmore mentions:
• 90% of what is stored in our memories is image-based content
• Our brains process images 60,000 times as fast as they do text
• Visual aids enhance learning by 400%
• 65% of people are visual learners (or think in images)
Not only do images help create memory triggers, but they also promote responses. If you want teens to be able to do more than simply recite the rules or recount the dangers of certain behaviors, you need to appeal to the right sides of their brains.
Right-brained thinking isn’t just about visual input. Music and hands-on experiences also inspire engagement, creativity, and passion. In other words, they more readily lead to applying information to real-life settings.
Let’s say your teen exhibits laziness and you’re concerned about where that character flaw may lead. The left-brained approach might be to read statistics about homelessness. A right-brained approach might include actually viewing images — or perhaps a video — depicting homeless people and children living in squalor. What about actually interviewing a homeless person or someone who works at a homeless shelter and brainstorming ways to help — as well as avoid common pitfalls.
Do you see how one parental method of instruction is more likely to get an eye roll while the other has greater potential for igniting passion and prompting action?
Dr. Sweet defines this generation of teens as “EPIC”:
As you provide real-life experiences and image-rich ideas and information for your teen, you can invite your son/daughter to participate in his or her world in meaningful ways and connect with others about issues that are important to you. And you might even see less eye-rolling.