In today’s New York Times there is a lengthy article about teen use of mobile technology, particularly cell phones and texting technologies. Reading the article several statements jumped out at me as important to consider when working with teens and adults in the community. These include:
- Children increasingly rely on personal technological devices like cellphones to define themselves and create social circles apart from their families, changing the way they communicate with their parents.
- For kids it has become an identity-shaping and psyche-changing object…
- Text messaging, in particular, has perhaps become this generation’s version of pig Latin.
- Early on, Savannah’s parents agreed that they had to set rules. First, they banned cellphone use at the dinner table and, later, when the family watched television together, because Mr. Pence worried about the distraction. “They become unaware of your presence,” he said.
- It is a new sensibility on many fronts. Jan Blanton said her relationship with her son, Ben, is closer because cellphones make reaching out so simple.
- No one is teaching kids how to use these things,” he said. “But in fairness, adults don’t know how to use them, either.’
As I read the article, and particularly these quotes, two themes are repeated over and over again. First, that text-messaging and cell phones are creating a community for teens that is all their own. These technologies give teens a chance figure out and demonstrate who they are.
The second theme is that in order to both support teen use of these technologies, and to provide some boundaries and expectations related to the technologies, parents (and other adults) need to learn about how the tech. works. Adults need to talk to teens about their use of the technology and figure out how to manage that technology in the way that works best for each individual family.
Libraries can help in this. They can provide tools, workshops, etc. for parents and teachers about text messaging, how it works, and why teens are so into it. They can have discussions with teens about text messaging and the role it plays in the lives of teens in the community. Librarians can develop text messaging services so that teens (and adults) get to use text messaging in a variety of ways – from making social connections to getting reference and research help.
Ultimately, as I’ve been known to say in previous blog posts, teen text messaging needs to be looked at as a positive activity in which teens take part. Adults can’t ignore it. Adults need to learn what it is and what it means to teens. And then, adults need to find ways to help teens be smart when integrating texting into their adolescent lives.