It’s likely that you don’t want to miss recent news stories about social media, technology, and teens:

  • A story in the New York Times on sexting titled A Girl’s Nude Photo, and Altered Lives focused on the tale of a middle school girl whose sending of a nude photo to her boyfriend, via her cellphone, had really horrible ramifications. One of the things that really struck me about the story was the quick involvement of law enforcement. Fortunately, the students involved were able to take part in a community service program instead of going to court for the sexting. However, the story points to the need to find methods to educate teens about sexting in order to help guarantee they have the skills and knowledge necessary in order to make smart decisions about this kind of text messaging. The issues related to sexting and teens were discussed in a show that aired yesterday on Boston’s WBUR radio station. During the show danah boyd and Dr. Michael Rich, the Mediatrician, discussed teen behaviors related to sexting and technology. They also discussed the need for laws to catch up with technology and be revised in order to better support teens and adults. The interview/discussion is well worth listening to. (It’s just 25 minutes.)
  • A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics was released earlier this week and generated quite a lot media attention. The report titled, The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families, has quite a lot of good information and advice for parents on young people’s use of social media. However, a lot of the headlines generated from the report focus on one aspect of what the pediatricians write about, social media and depression. The press, and some bloggers, has been really hitting hard on the aspects of the report that state that social media can cause depression. However, there is some question about how valid this conclusion actually is. As Larry Magid writes in a post on C|NET today:

    Clearly, there are people who use Facebook who are depressed but what isn’t clear is whether Facebook users are any more likely to be depressed than non-Facebook users and, even if that’s the case, whether that’s because Facebook causes depression or because depressed people are more likely to turn to Facebook to help them deal with their depression. I haven’t done the research, but I’m pretty sure that children who visit pediatricians (except for regular checkups) are more likely to be sick than children who don’t visit them. Does that imply that pediatricians cause illness? Of course not. As Grohol pointed out, a correlation does not necessarily mean causation.

    One of the reasons this is so important is that librarians serving teens have to be careful to not believe everything published, which I know is not news, but I sometimes think that when it comes to technology and teens adults tend to be less evaluative than they might otherwise be. Whenever I read a report like the one from the Pediatrics Academy, I think about what I would advise a teen if she read something like this. Would I say, “Believe it, it’s printed, it’s got to be true.” I don’t think so. Probably, I’d say something like, “That’s really interesting, lets find out if there is other information on the topic and see if what this report states matches with what others have found.” As librarians serving teens, it’s important to take that same approach. Evaluate the news, just like teens learn to do in schools in public libraries.

  • An article in the Boston Globe on Sunday called Connected, exhausted focused on teens that sleep with their cellphones near by in order to be able to quickly and easily respond to text messages received in the middle of the night. This, of course, is having an impact on the amount of sleep that the all night texting teens have. When I read this article I wanted to scream, “Where are the parents?” If teens are staying up all night texting then why aren’t parents getting involved and setting down some rules? Teens need boundaries, as stated in the Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets for teens. It’s the job of moms and dads to set those boundaries. The technology and cellphones isn’t at fault. It’s the lack of boundaries that is a problem.

These three news items all appearing in quick succession reminded me how important it is to keep up with the news as it relates to teens and technology. They also reminded me how important it is to be evaluative about what we read on the topic of teens and technology. It’s easy to blame technology for behaviors. That way no one has to spend time analyzing underlying causes. That analysis might not only take time, it could very well lead to uncomfortable realizations. However, if blame is only placed on technology, and a real analysis of causes doesn’t take place, then librarians serving teens aren’t doing their jobs. To be a teen advocate and to provide teens with the best service possible, evaluation and analysis of stories such as those told in the news over the past several days has to take place.

About Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.

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