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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Teen Research Trending: What do we do about Twilight: Continuing the conversation.

Jarvis, Christine. “The Twilight of Feminism? Stephanie Meyer’s Saga and the Contradictions of Contemporary Girlhood.”  Children’s Literature in Education, 45 (2014): 101-115.

As a subscriber of yalsa-bk, YALSA’s listserv about young adult books, I was interested to see a few months ago through messages posted to the listserv that we as professionals still struggle with what do about the Twilight series. Much has been written and discussed regarding the problematic themes in Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight saga, including (but not limited to) issues of abuse and power imbalance.  At the same time, these books have proven to be wildly popular and have served as “the hook” that has opened the door to reading for many adolescents.  

Jarvis acknowledged the problematic themes inherent in this series in her introduction to her own research, in which she attempts to make sense of the enormous appeal of these books by a population of girls whose cultural context no longer reflects the stereotypical gender norms of the early-mid 20th century that Jarvis and others claim are portrayed in this series.  Jarvis researches the transformative nature of literature at the University of Huddersfield in the United Kingdom where she also serves as the dean of education and professional development and professor of teaching and learning in higher education.

In her research, Jarvis identified and examined two tropes she found in the Twilight series – the beauty makeover and the runaway heroine.    She analyzed these tropes through the lens of research conducted by education scholars that has examined social and academic pressures that girls face today in schools.  Such research suggests that girls experience a great deal of tension in their lives.  Girls today understand that they’re not supposed to be defined by their appearance but by their success in academics and, later, in the job world.  At the same time girls seemingly judge themselves and others by their appearance and their abilities to attain unachievable standards of beauty.  As Jarvis noted, “Girls are in charge of their own destinies – they can be anything. They are in charge of their own bodies – they can make them slim, smooth, and immaculately groomed and fashionable” (p. 105).

Jarvis noted that the trope of the beauty makeover is one often used in Western popular culture; however, with regard to the Twilight saga, Jarvis explained that Bella experiences multiple beauty makeovers, which she rejects as someone who does not care about physical beauty, but ultimately receives anyway.  This allows readers to enjoy both the character’s feminist perspective and her acceptance of the importance of feminine beauty standards.

Jarvis also examined the trope of the runaway heroine in the Twilight novels.  In various episodes in the books, Bella places herself in danger when she experiences anger toward Edward at times in which he takes actions that prevent the couple of being together or furthering their relationship.  Bella has placed her relationship with Edward above all other concerns and thus feels extreme pressure to succeed.  Jarvis argued that the kind of self-harm that Bella enacts serves as both acts of revenge for Edward’s actions as well as reminders to Edward of the preciousness of Bella’s life.  In other words, you’ve learned your lesson: don’t do it again.

Jarvis argued that understanding the contradictions girls feel today may help us better understand how Twilight serves as a fantasy vehicle by which girls can mentally resolve the pressure they feel to reject traditional gender norms while also succumbing to them.  While the Twilight series may (or may not) be losing popularity with young adult readers, the issues Jarvis presented exist in other, more recent YA books.  Jarvis’ research may help us better understand how series like Twilight appeal to readers and better help practitioners look for other YA book recommendations that can help girls make sense of this tension.

Robin A. Moeller is an assistant professor of Library Science at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina where she researches visual representations of information as they apply to young adults.

 

Top 5 YA and Libraries Research in 2015 (But Mostly from Pew Research Center)

In the world of research about young adults and libraries, 2015 has been good year. This blog post will offer a recap of the Top 5 (in my opinion) young adult and library related research that you may have caught or may have overlooked throughout the year. Not surprisingly, several of these studies come from the Pew Research Center. If you aren’t familiar with Pew, it’s occasionally checking out the work that they do or signing up for daily or weekly research alerts (like research nerds, like me, do). According to Pew’s (2015) website, the research center is  “a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. (¶1). ” They do some really terrific research on all sorts of topics but of interest to us is their work on young adults, the Internet, and libraries. Well, enough about Pew and more about these five studies that I would like to highlight from this past year. Included in my top five are a couple of leading researchers in young adults and libraries like Drs. Denise Agosto, June Abbas, and Marcia Mardis. Enjoy this research roundup!

Agosto, D. E., & Abbas, J. (2015). “Don’t be dumb—that’s the rule I try to live by”: A closer look at older teens’ online privacy and safety attitudes. New Media & Society, 1–19. http://doi.org/10.1177/1461444815606121

Dr. Denise Agosto is a faculty member and researcher in the School of Information at Drexel University who does amazing research on young adults and libraries. Another fun fact: she is the current editor for YALSA’s own Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults (JRLYA). Dr. June Abbas is a faculty member in the School of Library and Information Science at the University of Oklahoma who also does fantastic research on libraries, young adults, and technology. In this article, the authors discuss older teens feelings and concerns about online privacy. The research reveals that while young adults are concerned about privacy they also feel the need to offer personal information online to friends. For librarians, this article closes with implications for instructing teens about online security and privacy.

Horrigan, J. B. (2015). Libraries at the crossroads (pp. 1–52). Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/09/15/libraries-at-the-crossroads/

            When this research came out, it made quite a splash in the library community. The research reveals that citizens see libraries as critical “community institutions” and are interested in the programming and services libraries provide, but indicated that library visits by Americans are slowly decreasing (p. 3). Included in this research were older young adults who expressed a desire for public libraries to support community education, improve the local economy through assist to local businesses, employers, and job hunters. They also wanted libraries to take a lead role in emerging technologies and help the community learn how to use these gadgets. Although this research wasn’t focused strictly of 12 to 18 year olds, it does highlight the needs and desires of older young adults and emerging adults regarding the library and its services.

Lenhart, A. (2015). Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015. Washington, D.C.: Pew Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/09/teens-social-media-technology-2015/

                Pew Research Center’s Amanda Lenhart often takes a lead role in reporting on young adults, technology, and social media.  Not surprisingly, this report provides an overview of current young adult social media use. It is worth a scan of the summary of findings, which reveals that Facebook is still the most popular social media platform among teens, and 71% of young adults are using more than one social networking site on a regular basis. For librarians, this report may assist in better understanding current social media and online technology use by young adult patrons. It may answer (or at least help answer) lingering questions young adult or youth services librarians have about the technology habits of the population they serve.

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New Issue of YALSA’s Journal of Research on Libraries & Young Adults!

I am pleased to announce the publication of a special themed issue of YALSA’s Journal of Research on Libraries & Young Adults (JRLYA). Volume 6, Issue 4 features practice-based research, with five papers that showcase best practices for the application of research to public and school library services.

With her paper “Find Poetry: Using Found Poems in School and Public Libraries to Enhance Student Creativity and Writing,” Janet Hilbun suggests using found poetry with teens to create dynamic educational library programs. She provides guidelines for writing found poems and shows how writing found poems leads to increased critical thinking skills and creative thinking, and deepens teens’ engagement with written language. Hilbun concludes with suggestions for a host of library programs featuring found poetry activities.

Teen librarians have long used booktalks to excite teens about books and reading. In “Book Tweets and Snappy Reads: Booktalking to Engage Millennial Teens,” Vanessa Irvin offers a set of six new types of research-based booktalks that are likely to appeal to today’s teens. These booktalking techniques use social media and other technologies to excite teens about books and to encourage the development of lifelong reading habits. The six booktalking techniques include: the Book Tweet, the Wrap Back, the Open End, the Graphic Form, the Snap’n Read, and Power-Full Points. Each is suitable for use in a range of public and school library settings.

Based on classroom visits, library observation sessions, and interviews with teachers, librarians, and school administrators, Clayton Copeland and Karen Gavigan describe a case study of inclusive middle school library programming in their paper “Examining Inclusive Programming in a Middle School Library: A Case Study of Adolescents Who Are Differently- and Typically-Able.” They found educational benefits for both differently-able and typically-able students who took park in inclusive library programming as well as social skills and community building benefits for all student participants. The authors provide a list of recommendations for librarians who are interested in achieving a culture of inclusiveness in their own school or public libraries.

Public libraries are community centers, and as such, involving community members in the design of public library programs and services should be a core goal of effective teen library services. In “YouthStudio: Designing Public Library YA Spaces with Teens,” Colin Rhinesmith, Molly Dettmann, Michael Pierson, and Rebecca Spence describe their experiences in working with teens and librarians through a community/university partnership to redesign a public library teen space. Teens involved in the project wanted their library space to serve as a comfortable hangout space, a space for informal learning, and a place for community information exchange. They learned new technology skills as a part of project participation, and they developed new leadership skills. The study shows the value of including community members in action research projects, including both teens and librarians, to put into practice lessons learned from theory and research.

In “Future of Library and Museum Services Supporting Teen Learning: Perceptions of Professionals in Learning Labs and Makerspaces,” June Abbas and Kyungwon Koh discuss the growing trend of opening learning spaces, such as makerspace and learning labs, in libraries and museums. Based on in-depth interviews with nine professionals working in learning spaces in U.S. libraries and museums, the authors describe key challenges, achievements, and goals in implementing and maintaining teen learning spaces. They also offer suggestions for better positioning library and information science (LIS) professional education to prepare students for successful work in running learning spaces and in working toward expanding the educational range and impact of library and museum services for teens.

JRLYA is YALSA’s open-access, peer-reviewed research journal, located at: http://www.yalsa.ala.org/jrlya. Its purpose is to enhance the development of theory, research, and practice to support young adult library services. JRLYA presents original research concerning: 1) the informational and developmental needs of teens; 2) the management, implementation, and evaluation of young adult library services; and 3) other critical issues relevant to librarians who work with teens. Writer’s guidelines are located at http://www.yalsa.ala.org/jrlya/author-guidelines/.

Denise E. Agosto, editor, JRLYA

 

Teen Research Trending: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Literacy

What insights can the busy YALSA member glean from the new volume in The Handbook of Research in Middle Level Education: Research on Teaching and Learning with the Literacies of Young Adolescents (Malu & Schaefer, 2015)? This research-based handbook is the focus of this blog, which is the 3rd installment in a series of blogs being published by members of YALSA’s Research committee. I used two basic criteria to decide which ideas from this handbook were worthy of sharing with the YALSA community. First, the featured concept had to have some parallel relationship and/or applicability within Library and Information Science research and practice. Second, the concept has, in my opinion, not been fully integrated into in LIS research and therefore warrants more attention by YALSA scholars and practitioners. My aim is to synthesize the common threads in literacy research across the disciplines of Education and Library and Information Science in hopes that either YS practitioners or scholars alike might be interested in furthering their knowledge of this concept or incorporating it into their repertoire of practices.

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YALSAblog Tweets of the Week: October 30, 2015

A short list of tweets from the past week of interest to teens and the library staff that work with them.

Do you have a favorite Tweet from the past week? If so add it in the comments for this post. Or, if you read a Twitter post between October 30 and November 5 that you think is a must for the next Tweets of the Week send a direct or @ message to lbraun2000 on Twitter.
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Teen Research Trending: Serving Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Bress, Andrea.  “Making Your School Library More Functional to Individuals with Autism.”  Library Media Connection, 32 (Aug./Sep. 2013):  46-7.

Though not a research article, strictly speaking, this practitioner-oriented essay makes ample use of research on autism and library services for people with autism.  This article is one of several dissemination activities that grew out of the recent PALS Project, a Florida State University (FSU) project funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).  The principal investigator was Dr. Nancy Everhart, a professor in the FSU School of Information, and the co-principal investigator was Dr. Juliann Woods, a professor in the FSU School of Communication Science and Disorders and associate director for research to practice at the Autism Institute.  (In the interest of full disclosure, I should acknowledge that Drs. Everhart and Woods and colleagues of mine; however, I was not involved in this project.)  Andrea Bress was a student in the School of Communication Science and Disorders and a member of the PALS Project research team at the time this article was written.  Three other members of the team were doctoral students Amelia Anderson and Abigail Delehanty and Lezlie Cline, project manager for the Florida Center for Interactive Media.

Bress’s article does not mention Project PALS specifically nor does it focus exclusively on young adults, but all of the information and advice provided certainly can apply to any young adult with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  She notes that, according to the Centers for Disease Control, one in every eighty-eight children is diagnosed with ASD, and she adds that libraries have the potential to be safe, comfortable places for individuals with ASD.  In order for that to happen, librarians need to be aware of the kind of environment these individuals need in order to function best.  Specifically, a quiet place with low lighting, good signage, accessible technology, and no clutter is an optimal environment.  Routine is highly valued by individuals with ASD, so keeping materials, furniture, and technology in their regular, predictable locations is important.  Because interacting with others can be stressful, making self-checkout kiosks available can help make borrowing materials more user-friendly.

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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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Teen research trending: Margaret Mackey and the problem of finding your next read

This is the first of a series of monthly posts that the YALSA Research Committee would like to share with the YA LIS community. These posts will reflect some of the many publications that we encounter in the process of updating YALSA’s Research Bibliography for the 2013-2015 period. The emphasis of the bibliography will be LIS research, but some of these posts will also share research from other disciplines such as Education, Media, Urban Studies etc., where teens are also protagonists. Posts will briefly summarize the article and highlight some important points for LIS practice, but each of the authors will bring a different flavor. Hopefully you will find them useful to inspire and support your work and knowledge about teens!!

Mackey, Margaret. “Finding the Next Book to Read in a Universe of Bestsellers, Blockbusters, and Spin-Offs.”  Academic Quarter (Akademisk Kvarter):  The Academic Journal for Research from the Humanities, 7 (2013): 216-236. http://www.akademiskkvarter.hum.aau.dk/pdf/vol7/15a_MargaretMackey_Finding%20The%20Next.pdf

Respecting mass choices but not being confined to them requires walking a fine line, but it is an important space to find. (p.133)

Margaret Mackey is a Canadian scholar who has been writing about reading and literacies in a broad sense for the past 25 years. If you are familiar or enjoyed the work of Eliza Dresang, I think you might also enjoy this. Yes, this is a blatant attempt to do reader’s advisory about research.

The quote that introduces this post reflects a struggle with which many librarians must contend everyday. We would like to see that important space of reading selection not only found, but also clearly occupied by libraries and librarians. In exploring how to take over this space, Mackey examines the role that bestsellers play, especially when they are becoming increasingly adapted into diverse types of media.

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5 THINGS YOU THOUGHT YOU KNEW ABOUT TEENS AND SOCIAL MEDIA: RESEARCH STUDY SUMMARY AND INFOGRAPHIC

Many of today’s teens spend hours each day online communicating with friends. They visit their online friends in social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter; they share photos and videos via services such as YouTube, Vine, and Snapchat; and they send each other text messages throughout the day – and night – via their ever-present cell phones.

In a recent research grant funded by IMLS, we set out to study how public and school libraries fit into teens’ increasingly online information lives, especially when it comes to searching for information. To that end, we collected data through interviews, focus groups, and surveys from two populations of U.S. high school students. One population attends an urban public science and engineering magnet high school which is known for its award-winning integration of technology throughout the curriculum and its 1:1 laptop program. The school enrolls about 500 students, about 30% of whom are economically disadvantaged and 65% of whom are minority students. The second student population attends a suburban public high school located outside of a major U.S. metropolitan area in a different region of the country. About 55% of the students are economically disadvantaged and 75% are minorities. This second school also supports a small science and engineering magnet program within its total student body of about 2500. Our research sample from this school included both magnet and non-magnet students.

A total of 158 students from the two schools took part in the study. As a group they were heavy social media users, and the majority had used social media services such as Facebook and Twitter to ask (77%) and answer (61%) questions. More than half of the participants had asked or were willing to ask questions about 20 common information needs topics, ranging from social activities and entertainment to careers and health information. School was the most common topic they asked about online, with 77% reporting that they had used social media to ask questions about school-related topics such as homework and class scheduling.

These findings demonstrate that – contrary to common belief — teens are not just wasting time when using social media. Often they are seeking information and sharing what they know with others. Recognizing that teens are using social media for beneficial uses such as information seeking and sharing can help libraries to better support teens’ information needs. Libraries can develop policies that support teens’ use of social media and consider providing informational content through these outlets. Library staff can also encourage teachers, school administrators, and other adults who interact with teens to consider the value of using social media for information access and sharing.

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