Impact on teen friendships in an age of technology

It’s hard to go through a day without seeing a teen using some piece of technology. Sometimes it seems like they are glued to their phones (similar to their adult counterparts), even when they are walking. Or you’ll see many of them together, snapping and Instagraming their afternoon at the local coffeeshop.

How does all this technology impact teen friendships? As a teenager, friendships are crucial. Your friends become your sounding board, provide advice and support you in times of need, and become a pseudo family as you head towards adulthood. The Pew Research Center was curious about this and in 2014-2015 conducted a nation-wide survey of teens aged 13-17. The report, Teens, Technology, and Friendships, was published in August 2015 and I think it sheds some light on teens’ communication style.

From the report, I pulled three main ideas. The report is jammed packed with interesting statistics and worth a look through. But for a condensed version…

Making friends online

According to the teens surveyed, 57% reported that they had made a friend online at some point. However, it was less likely that these online friends turned into people teens met in person (only 20%). When you break up the 57% of teens who have made at least one friend online, it was more likely these teens were older (15-17 years old).

Boys were more likely to have made online friends through video games (the networked component that allows you to play with other people online playing the same game) while girls were more likely to make friends through social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram).

The so what: As I was reading this section of the report, I thought back to growing up and writing pen pal letters to students either in the United States or across the world. Could something like this be replicated through video games or social media platforms by the library? Perhaps if a library has a video game system for teens to use, they could pair up with another library who has the same video game so their teens could play against and with each other? Or the teens could “take over” a social media platform that the library uses to communicate with teens and talk to another teen department at another library?

Keeping in touch with friends

Regardless if the friend was made online or is an in-person friend, texting is the popular means to communicate with them. Teens reported that 49% used texting as their main form of communication with friends. Other forms of communication included instant messaging, social media platforms (and direct messaging), email, video chat, phone calls, video games, and other messaging apps (Kik or WhatsApp). Many teens said that the medium to communicate was based on the type of friendship they had with the other person. Only the closest friends would be eligible for a phone call, while newer friends were easier to text or talk to in another messaging app. It was interesting that 85% of teens said they had called their friends at some point (analog is not dead!).

The so what: Teens have created a system for building trust in friendships seen through how they communicate with each other. They have rules for how to communicate with each other and these look different than how we might be use to communicating with friends. By seeing that this sample of teens is more likely to use written word to communicate can better help us understand the teens we serve (and what sort of programs could happen with this framework in mind).

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“What’s reference? And other library related questions”

My current job in graduate school is a library supervisor for a residence hall library. Our residence hall library system is unique here at the University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign which gives us the opportunity to interact with undergraduates in their residence halls. Our collection consists of the latest fiction, nonfiction, movies, TV shows, CDs, and magazines. Essentially a public library-like collection in an academic setting. It’s awesome, to be so close and helpful, and students don’t even have to leave their residence hall!

My co-workers and I have tried to provide reference support in the libraries. This past semester I spent eight hours a week doing “Office Hours.” Essentially, come visit me, ask your reference questions. Then, during finals, one of my co-workers did a “Roving Reference” table throughout several residence halls. At a recent staff meeting he shared that when he was roving many undergraduates asked him, “What’s reference?”

This may hurt us as library staff. We hope (and perhaps sometimes assume) that what we take as implicit knowledge (e.g., what reference is) is also implicit to the people we work with.

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Teens, privacy, and digital surveillance

Last week, my library science department hosted Alison Macrina, the founder and director of The Library Freedom Project (LFP). From their website: 

The Library Freedom Project is a partnership among librarians, technologists, attorneys, and privacy advocates which aims to make real the promise of intellectual freedom in libraries. By teaching librarians about surveillance threats, privacy rights and responsibilities, and digital tools to stop surveillance, we hope to create a privacy-centric paradigm shift in libraries and the local communities they serve. 

Alison’s three-hour workshop went by so fast, probably because she is an engaging speaker and the things she talked about were interesting. There is so much to know and learn about digital privacy…especially as librarians. We are in a critical position to help spread this information to the communities we serve. Alison herself is a librarian/has a librarian background so she definitely sees our potential in helping to protect intellectual freedom in these spaces. She is so about librarians, the LFP even has a toolkit all for us!

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Expanded-Learning, Collaborations, and How the Library Can Help

A recent report from America’s Promise Alliance looks at four communities who strove to expand opportunities for their underserved students. With support from the Ford Foundation, these communities leveraged local resources to expand opportunities in a variety of ways.

America’s Promise Alliance is an organization, founded in 1997 with the support from former Secretary of State Colin Powell and previous presidents: Nancy Reagan (standing in for her husband Ronald Reagan), Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. The organization strives to create places and situations for students to succeed.

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Teens and How They Use Technology – What’s Our Role?

This semester I’m enrolled in a Collaborations in Feminism and Technology class. It parallels the larger organization, FemTechNet. During our most recent class, our discussion turned to a frequently talked about: children/teens and technology. What sort of access to technology should they have and how will they use it?

Part of our class veered towards the idea of technocentrism (technology is the center of our world and it controls us. See Seymour Papert’s paper to read more) or technological determinism (essentially get on board with technology’s pace or forever be left behind). We discussed just giving kids and teens technology and counting on them to “just know” how to use it. We discussed restricting access because they aren’t old enough to really know how to use technology. And we discussed that teens simply don’t understand the permanence of putting something online.

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Hanging Out (and networking) with YALSA Librarians

I’ve been blogging for YALSA for almost year. Crazy to think I’m starting my second year of graduate school. Those job descriptions that come into my email box seem a little more real, and a little more attainable.

What makes me so excited about heading into the professional world of librarianship is when I get the chance to interact with other librarians, librarians that have experience and insight, insight that I hope to one day have. While I know they, technically, are my colleagues, I still feel a little out of their league. However, that doesn’t stop me from soaking up as much knowledge from them as I can.

I got an opportunity to meet a handful of other librarians (and YALSA) bloggers last week. Crystle, our blog manager, had arranged some Google Hangouts as a way for us bloggers to meet each other. I logged on Monday night, not quite sure what to expect.

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Day Five and Recap of the Week — Teens have valuable opinions (but we already knew that)

In the craziness of finishing up a week of camp (both for the teens and the younger campers who came in the morning) and heading back to Champaign-Urbana, I didn’t get a chance to write a Friday blog post. However, I’m here for a day five recap and a brief reflection on the week as a whole.

On Friday, we gave the teens more design time on their projects and also, gave them a chance to put their ideas together into a final presentation. A few of the teens made a PowerPoint presentation, giving an overview of their week and how they arrived at their design projects. It was a nice way to summarize the week and reflect back on what they had done.

After a brief dress rehearsal, it was showtime! The director of the Peoria Heights Public Library was there, some 4H staff members (the camp was sponsored through 4H and the University of Illinois Extension), and some of the parents of the teens. Their presentations were both informational and a celebration of their hard work.

And boy, did the teens have some great ideas. Each project showcased the teen’s strengths and their insight. The projects focused on how to make the teen space in the library more inviting for teens. Some focused on the physical space, others on what was in the collection, and others about how to bridge generation gaps between teens and older adults, using the library as the setting. The library director was intrigued by many of the ideas. I was reminded that we need teen perspectives because they have valuable opinions. I would be curious to return to the Peoria Heights Public Library in a few months and see what input was considered and put to use.

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Teen Design Lab Day Four — Time to Design!

Another good day at the Teen Design Lab. We had a pretty free form day, complete with some inspiration, project time, and stickers.

What we did:

  • Watched some library related humor videos (such as Check It Out made by the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library — what a great job they did incorporating Taylor Swift into EVERYTHING). These videos served as inspiration and a potential design project. We wanted to give teens the option of making a video parody to promote the library.
  • Then it was design time. This is the neat part of the camp. We just let the teens be, serving really only as sounding boards and offering words of encouragement. We provide laptops, paper, pens, and other design supplies (such as clay, building blocks, felt, etc) so they can create a prototype of some sort. It was neat to see the teens find their element — some needed to make something with their hands while others made detailed dream plans and steps to success charts. The design process also the teens to showcase their talents and strengths, which is awesome. At the same time, we are aligning with library and community priorities — giving suggestions on how to make the teens feel welcome or participate in their community and or library.
  • The day ended with a sticker workshop. Again, this pulls from Makerspace and Fab Lab ideas and equipment (check out the Maker & DIY Programs YALSA Wiki page for more information about this sort of programming). It was an easy setup — laptops running Silhouette software, Silhouette vinyl cutters, and vinyl for the stickers. It’s another workshop where the teens really have free reign over what they want to do. Our only suggestion was using a silhouette image for the cleanest cut. The teens really took off on this project, most printing multiple sets of vinyl. They picked up on it pretty quickly (and a few had done this before). It was a nice way to end the workshop.

The teens will be back tomorrow, continuing to work on their designs and then give a brief presentation to their peers and community members we’ve invited to come so the teens’ opinions can be heard!

Teen Design Lab Day Three — Tech Playground & Teen Feedback

Wednesday was a bit of a slow day. Lucky for us, we had something free form planned for the teens to explore.

We called it a Tech Playground. Our potential project ideas were:

  • Facebook pot for the Peoria Heights Public Library
  • Google Maps with pins of their favorite places in Peoria Heights
  • Experiment with graphic design using Canva, Gimp, or Imgur
canva
Canva overview image from Reel Bold Media

What won out was Canva. I had only briefly worked with this website and I was the one who had recommended it after hearing about it at a social media conference. To sign up, all you need is an email address or can log in with Facebook or a Google account.

From there, you can make almost any sort of design. Flyers, Facebook covers, Etsy banners, posters, business cards — the sky is the limit. With the design, there are both free templates and templates that can be purchased at low cost ($1 or so). You can upload your own photos, use copyright free images, or purchase images from Canva (again around $1 or so). It’s relatively easy to maneuver around the site, and lots of tutorials to watch if you get confused. Here’s a thing we made!

We made a thing!

The teens seemed very into it and said it was one of their favorite things they did that day. It was a great project to just let them run wild and to create something they wanted to use. We also confirmed that Facebook is just not a social media this group of teens use (paralleling recent studies done that say teens are moving away from using Facebook).

After Canva, which was hard to tear the teens away, we had a volunteer from the Peoria Heights Historical Society come in. The teens seemed engaged with the volunteer and asked some good questions. The day ended with conversations on potential design projects they will officially start tomorrow and a conversation with the director of the library. He had looked at their feedback on the Hack Your Library project. The conversation was pretty good, but of course, came back to similar problems — teen involvement and investment. The teens gave good suggestions, such as scouting a couple of teens and allowing them to have a very active role in program planning. If they can bring a couple of friends, then the program has a chance of taking off. I’m curious to know in the future if the director keeps this in mind. I think getting teen feedback is so crucial. We can guess all we want, but at the end of the day, what the teens say and think does matter.

Looking forward to day four and getting more into the design process!

Teen Design Lab Day Two — Maps, notebooks, and hack your library!

Back for day two reflection! We added one more teen to the group, bringing our total up to five. Today was a heavy work day, although we were taking into consideration the request from the teen for more projects.

The afternoon began with working on something for the internet. We gave the teens three options: make a Facebook post for the Peoria Heights Public Library page (since our camp takes place at this library), make a blurb that could go up on the Richwoods Township website (since Roger came from the township to talk to us yesterday), or create a Google Map with pins at places they had visited on the community tour on Monday. More on that in what went well and what could be improved. 

Then, the Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab made an appearance (and they are team members in this larger grant helping to pay me and my co-teachers to develop and run this camp). They brought along a friend, aka a portable laser. Holly, one of the Fab Lab instructors, led the five teens though designing a notebook cover to be lasered on a small Moleskine notebook. It was a great workshop and the teens had to find a quote they liked. We can definitely think of this workshop as a way to develop interest-based, developmentally appropriate programs that support connected learning. The teens had full say in what their notebooks looked like and this design process exposed them not only to design tools, but file management, USB procedures (like eject USB before physically removing it), and exposure to technology they might not have seen or used before.

With the notebooks begin lasered, the teens then did Hack Your Library. Essentially, they each had a clipboard, pencil, and a bunch of post-it notes. They were to carefully and thoughtfully go through the library, writing down on the post-it notes what they liked about the library, what they didn’t like, and things that surprised them (very similar to what they did the day before in downtown Peoria Heights). The afternoon ended with the teens presenting their findings to the group. The director of the library who we’ve been working closely with couldn’t sneak away to hear the presentation but was looking at the feedback on our way out after camp was over.

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