Last week I featured on the Middle East Eye's The Big Picture Podcast talking about how parents and teachers can talk to teenagers about personalities like Tate, online safety and what we often call 'uncomfortable conversations'. Like many educators, we highlighted that the conversations go beyond the influence of one individual and there are big questions and discussions to be had around representation, the meaning of masculinity and the lack of role models for boys in the teenage space.
There is so much to unpack here: where do images and experiences of masculinity come from? How do we open conversations about male mental health? What does gender equity and equality look like in schools? And, the question at large for so many parents and teachers: how do we navigate the free, all encompassing and concerning online content teenagers consume?
I cannot do all of these questions justice in a single blog post. However, for so many parents and teachers, a starting point is representation.
Positive Online Role Models for Young Men
With the best will in the world, we cannot hide teenagers from the online world. So much of it is worrying, yes, but so much of it is good too. They know more than we do, their future careers and work are likely to be online and it has opened up a wealth of positive knowledge and opportunities for them too. What we can do is help overcome the negative with the positive and over time, overcome the toxic messages so many teenagers are absorbing.
Below is a list of male role models for teenage boys. It's not a quick fix, I know. However, when we think about what's in our control, practically and pragmatically, online behaviour change is a good place to start supporting young men online. If you're a teacher, reference them in your discussions; if you're a parent, get your children to look them up online, follow them on socials and engage in their content so we can begin overriding the algorithms, together.
Entrepreneur, Podcaster, author and a Dragon on BBC One's Dragon's Den, Bartlett talks candidly and authentically about his experiences at school, dropping out of uni, building a business, wellbeing, empathy, leadership, resilience, hard work and so much more. His podcasts and tweets are lessons in themselves, lessons that teenagers everywhere would benefit from.
Follow him on all major social media @steven
Cambridge graduate, YouTuber, podcaster and entrepreneur, a few of my students told me about Ali Abdaal! A man who shares some of the best study, resilience and wellbeing tips for students in his brilliantly crafted YouTube videos, he is an excellent role model for young men to learn from whether it be to pursue university, entrepreneurship, or to learn about how we can overcome procrastination!
Follow him on all major social media @aliabdaal
Ben Francis MBE
The founder of GymShark, Ben Francis, is a wonderful role model for young men. The story of GymShark is inspiring and fascinating all at the same time; the way Francis shares his journey about building a business from scratch, networking, making mistakes, working hard, chipping away at building one of the most phenomenal British brands we know if, is something else. Learn more about his journey on his YouTube channel.
Radio host, television personality and author, Roman Kemp is the friend all teenage boys need. His kindness, humour and honesty about mental health are of great value to young men everywhere. Kemp talks honestly about his depression as a teenager, male mental health, his relationships with family and frends, and so much more. Follow him on all major social media @romankemp
Online fitness coach, podcaster and a pretty cool voice of wisdom, Diren provides relatable and no-nonsense doses of reality that every teenage boy, student and adult can benefit from! He's honest, funny and unfiltered (be warned!)! Very recently, Diren has been raising awareness and funds for the tragic Turkey-Syria Earthquakes - schools can get involved too.
Professor Scott Galloway
Perhaps not your typical teenage male role model - but Professor Galloway is someone teenage boys can look up to and parents and teachers can turn to for words of wisdom and advice for raising young men. His research and commentary on young men is fascinating, true and provides safety and comfort to young men everywhere: they will feel seen. An NYU professor of Marketing, Entrepreneur, podcaster and author, if you have a budding entrepreneur or business-minded child, or you're a teenager wanting to start in business, you'll be interested in Professor Galloway's content, I'm sure! @profgalloway
Again, someone for teenage boys to look up to and Simon Sinek's content is invaluable for, well, everyone. Author, podcaster, speaker, influencer, everything he says is thought provoking, nuanced, rational, witty and brilliant. Recently, Simon has been discussing Gen Z and trends relevant to Gen X in the workplace too - discussions that teenage boys, students and teachers would find beneficial. @simonsinek
Global, award winning and chart topping faith based singer (nasheed artist), Omar Esa, is a great male role model for young men, especially young muslim men. His impressive career spans many areas of the music industry, from RnB to faith based music. Omar has recently founded another YouTube channel for young children to inject fun into faith-based learning, is definitely one to watch. His social media platforms promote kindness, peace, justice and he's pretty funny too. Plus, his passion for the creative arts can inspire young men interested in the creative industry too. @1omaresa
Raising Boys 2 Men
A recent discovery and such a rich, humble and valuable channel for young men, Raising Boys 2 Men, although aimed at co-parents, is a brilliant account and male role model. His advice, wisdom, logic and mission to encourage healthy relationships can really help young men navigate their understanding of masculinity. His videos are candid, honest and supportive: highly recommended for parents and teenagers. @raisingboys_2men
There is no easy answer to resolving online algorithms, online safety, anxiety and the content teenagers are exposed to. It's even more tricky and overwhelming trying to navigate conversations about social media in the classroom. For now, we can make a start by asking young people to follow or engage with the accounts above. I'm sure there are plenty more that encourage healthy and positive discussions for young men - feel free to share them and we can keep adding to this list!
Social media accounts recommended are based on individual social media platforms in Feb 2023. If you are under the age of 18, please ask a parent/carer for permission and to advise when engaging with the accounts above. Parents are advised to check the accounts first before recommending to a young person.