DIY Learning: How Teens Are Teaching Themselves

Teens and tweens are flocking to digital media for a chance to learn on their own terms. By Erin Wilkey Oh
DIY Learning: How Teens Are Teaching Themselves

No matter what they teach kids, the apps, games, and websites that we've reviewed can help young learners build a variety of skills. If you're interested in helping your tweens and teens follow their passions and interests on their own time, the following titles and tips support kids in learning through tutorials and mentorship, digital creation, and by sharing their own expertise with a community of like-minded peers.

  • Break the mold. By the time kids are in their tweens and teens, they start to identify with certain labels ("artistic," "athletic," etc.) and might limit their experiences based on what they think they can and can't do. Encourage your kids to stretch themselves in risk-free learning spaces. Just because they haven't felt successful in art class doesn't mean they can't learn to draw with Art Academy. Or suggest they browse the hundreds of engaging "challenges" at DIY.
  • Encourage hands-on learning. Many of us learn by doing. If your kids need hands-on practice to grasp new skills, suggest they try one of the many creation tools out there. They can learn programming at Codecademy or comic creation with Strip Designer.
  • Learn through community. In many online spaces, tweens and teens can share their knowledge with peers and get valuable feedback on their own learning. Support them in locating kid-friendly networks, where they can share their talents with others and engage in discussions with like-minded peers. They can post their writing on a website like Teen Ink or share the games they create with the user-community on Gamestar Mechanic.

Have your kids learned anything through online resources or tutorials? Tell us about it in the comments below.

About Erin Wilkey Oh

Erin came to Common Sense from the classroom, having taught English for non-native speakers at a community college and 11th and 12th-grade English at an urban public high school. Her school district's 1-to-1 laptop... Read more

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Comments (8)

Kid, 11 years old

I have dyscalculia (it's like dyslexia, but it applies to math) and my family uses IXL and Khan Academy. Both sites cater to more than just math--they provide science lessons, social studies, and language arts, and Khan Academy even includes a few articles for high schoolers on getting into college. There's also a YouTube channel called ASAPscience I use pretty often. They simplify advanced scientific concepts such as learning the periodic table, and they're great for all ages. And finally, when I entered the sixth grade, French classes began, so I spent summer vacation on the language learning site, Duolingo. It's free, and it offers a variety of languages. The Internet can be a wonderful learning tool.
Parent written by peaknumbersuk

Exactly, if you want your children to be happy just help them to follow their dreams and interests. Give them suggestions, but don’t force them. What is best for your children? To know about child benefits visit
Kid, 11 years old

You can learn everything from the internet now -_- I taught myself 3 programming languages (NOT block-based) just from Why does everyone spell it code academy anyway? It's codecademy. Everyone's being praised for doing what they ought to do. -_- _-_ -_- _-_
Teen, 15 years old written by 00skid

I agree! I've been learning stuff since I was 5... which is when I got my hands on a computer, not meant to brag . You can even get more ahead of your classes now, thanks to Khan Academy. Shouldn't be a surprise.
Educator and Parent written by blog

Many of us learn by doing. If your kids need hands-on practice to grasp new skills, suggest they try one of the many creation tools out there at
Parent written by DbaiG

It’s rather sweet to be reading about parents concerned about their children’s tactics and abilities. The world has become so modern and mechanical that the concept of ‘family life’ has greatly shriveled. Glad to come across caring parents. <3 Dbaig
Parent written by Cooldee

Me and my 3 siblings always ask a trusted adult first before we go on YouTube and the internet for advice and help. As for music, I use Amazon's MP3 music store. The iTunes Music Store is too expensive!
Parent written by Regan McMahon

My kids absolutely turn to Internet tutorials first and ask a human second, as a last resort. When my daughter was a tween, she came down to dinner one evening with glamorous but totally tasteful eye makeup on. I asked her, "Where did you learn how to put eye makeup on?" (I hadn't taught her or even discussed it with her.) "On the Internet," she replied. And in high school, I'd see her studying for a French test with clever video flash cards or or even a math test, being guided through pre-Calculus problems by a faceless voice, step by step, and I'd ask if these were materials/lessons posted by her teachers. She'd look at me like I was extremely clueless and say, "I just found these on the Internet." To her, it's as easy as looking up a phone number -- actually easier, since teens rarely make phone calls (preferring texting).


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