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Would You Want Parenting Advice from Other Teens?

Posted by on Apr. 23, 2011 at 6:55 PM
  • 11 Replies

teen boyshruggingteen girl

Radical Business: Parenting Advice From Teens

By The Young Entrepreneur Council

The 25-year-old founder of on creating a new niche.

Name: Vanessa Van Petten, 25

Company name:, Lakewood Systems, Inc., 2007

Business: A parenting advice brand created by teens from parent-submitted questions.

Location: Los Angeles

Growing up, Vanessa Van Petten got into trouble so often that her mother and father began buying parenting advice books and guides. During one of her frequent groundings, Van Petten glanced through several of those books and spotted what she considered two major problems. First, the books provided bogus advice. More important, they were written by adults with no input from teenagers.

That’s when Van Petten decided to take matters into her own hands. At age 16, she wrote a book for parents from the teenage perspective: ”You're Grounded: How to Stop Fighting and Make the Teenage Years Easier” (iUniverse Inc., 2007). By age 21, she decided to expand the premise of the book by creating, an online community for parents and teens. With two full-time employees, Van Petten currently manages a stable of 120 contributors ages 12 to 20 who are blogging and answering parent-submitted questions.

There are three primary ways the site generates revenue. Advertisers can buy display ads on the site (for up to $3,500 per week) as well as sponsored links that appear at the bottom of a post on a related topic and direct readers back to the sponsor’s site. Or sponsors can pay between $500 and $3,000 for a sponsored review of their product or service.

Launching didn’t come without its obstacles. Here, Van Petten shares her top three startup challenges and how she overcame them.

Challenge No. 1: Getting business people to take me seriously

I was a senior at Emory University in Atlanta when I decided to use my babysitting money to incorporate. Everyone said I was too young to start a company. Without a background in business, I ended up learning how to trademark, incorporate and do my taxes from one of the “For Dummies” books.

Solution: I knew I could learn to do just about anything because there are so many resources for young entrepreneurs online. I used guide books, attended conferences and mentor programs like SCORE, an organization that offers free small-business advice. My parents are both lawyers, so they helped me with some of the forms for incorporating. For branding advice, I went to author, speaker and youth market research analyst Jane Buckingham. For help with self-publishing, blogging and speaking, I picked the brain of Stacey Kannenberg, author of the “Lets Get Started” series of children's books and founder and CEO of Cedar Valley Publishing

Challenge No. 2: Carving a niche in a saturated parenting advice market

Not only is doing something different hard to explain to new users, it is also difficult to find where you belong. The challenge was getting users to understand how our approach to parenting was different from what existing websites were doing.

Solution: We tested different versions of our “about” page and videos, and spread the word to parenting audiences that having teens offer advice to parents was a necessary new perspective in the space. We delivered keynote addresses at conferences, offered free teleseminars that were led by some of the teen writers and wrote guest contributions for other blogs. We also partnered with traditional parenting blogs to demonstrate that while we are a different kind of resource, we are also open to collaboration.

Challenge No. 3: Tapping social media to reach new audiences

Social media is a great way to reach new users, but it took a while to figure out how to use it effectively. What’s more, parents are not necessarily as tech-savvy as their children. Reaching parents virtually was difficult.

Solution: We decided to market the brand on a number of platforms, including sites for moms like CAFEMOM  and iVillage. We also did search engine optimization on our articles by tagging them with relevant keywords that were being searched for by our target user. We made videos with correct SEO tags and personally e-mailed them to big users in each community to gain exposure. The site currently averages 200,000 monthly unique visitors and roughly 600,000 page views.

Most important, we offered advice that actually works. Parents increasingly began spreading our quirky and sometimes controversial articles by word-of-mouth. We want to build a brand that is not only interesting, but also life-changing.

The Young Entrepreneur Council is an advocacy group dedicated to fighting youth unemployment and underemployment by helping young people build successful businesses and offering alternatives to traditional career paths. Its members include successful young entrepreneurs, business owners and thought leaders. It was founded in New York in 2010 by serial entrepreneur Scott Gerber, author of the forthcoming book “Never Get a 'Real' Job.”

What do you think about turning to other teens for parenting advice? Good idea or bad idea? Why?


by on Apr. 23, 2011 at 6:55 PM
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by on Apr. 23, 2011 at 7:01 PM

 I think that if a teen had valid points and recommendations then I would not have a problem with it. 

I was 19 and a head teacher in a toddler classroom full of two year olds.  I had an aid for 1 week who was in her 40 with four kids.  She had no respect for me or the kids.  She would treat them like her own, slapped hands, point fingers in face and raise her voice to them.  These were all things that especially in a day care setting, that are not acceptable.  She got fired and made it known that she should not have to listen to a 19 yr old.

by on Apr. 23, 2011 at 7:06 PM

I think it's a good idea, but you shouldn't just automatically take their word for everything. I really think that parents need more insight into what goes on in teenagers heads, though. Sometimes there's just too much of a gap between parents and teens and neither knows how to handle things.

by Silver Member on Apr. 23, 2011 at 7:14 PM

sometimes they know even more than adults; you'll be surprised

by Bronze Member on Apr. 23, 2011 at 7:16 PM
I would, especially when it comes to parenting a teen, they can still speak their language.
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by Diamond Member on Apr. 23, 2011 at 7:27 PM
I think it would give me insight to a younger mind. Especially since by the time my girl is a teen, it will have been a long time since I was. Hell, here on CM, I use advice from teen moms. I think even a non-mom teen would have as much of a chance of adding something good to the mix as an adult.
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by Ruby Member on Apr. 23, 2011 at 7:29 PM

 Parenting advise for a teen, from a teen. Personally I think it is a good idea to talk to a teen and get their input about stuff involving them , but as the parent you have to make your own judgment. I think way to many teens think they already know it all already, when they are just ignorant and think it should be the way they see to be.

by on Apr. 23, 2011 at 7:32 PM
Sure, they know what other teens are like.
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by on Apr. 23, 2011 at 7:36 PM

I am a teen mom so ya I get plenty from other and my mom has even asked me a few times so ya i dont see a problem with it :)

by on Apr. 23, 2011 at 7:38 PM

goodI think it is an EXCELLENT idea! I wouldn't 'automatically or blindly' take ANYONE's advice even a so called degreed expert without my own instincts, and reflection and judgement.. however I would be VERY OPEN to listening to other teens for advice on parenting my teens.

As a matter of fact we have even turned to our OWN teens for ideas. When we'd hit a dead end we'd make THEM think up their own creative and fitting appropriate consequences or life lessons and we looked for their input on things before we made decisions too. We found it very helpful! They are VERY insightful and help us see things from a different perspective.


by on Apr. 23, 2011 at 7:40 PM

my friend started a program like this for south side chicago school kids. it was all about preventing violence in their neighborhood. my friend noticed all the books she was reading was from an adult percpective so she got a group of teens together, started this program called C.R.I.M.E. and she and the kids wrote a book for other teens on how to prevent violence in their own neighborhood. 

it's an amazing program and i'm so proud of her and all of the teens and the things they have accomplished so far. 

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