Schoolyard taunts certainly haven’t gone away, but the Digital Age has brought with it the advent of cyberbullying, a method of peer abuse that allows for more anonymity for the aggressors, not to mention giving bullies the chance to engage in these taunts at any time of day or night, not just during school hours.

There are many documented health and behavioral effects of traditional and cyberbullying, and parents, teachers, and librarians are in a position to do a lot to help teach kids to deal with bullying and to stop it before it starts. But some teens are taking things into their own hands, too. College student Emily-Anne Rigal, who founded the organization We Stop Hate in 2010, is petitioning Facebook to add a bullying button to its posts. The button would allow users to report suspected abuse to potentially build up a case against a user and either remove their posts or their entire account from the site. Given that Facebook is one of the major arenas for cyberbullying, this seems like a good place to start.

Currently, Rigal is seeking votes on for those who support having a method to report harassment. Proponents of the button say that this will help teens learn to recognize inappropriate online behaviors and monitor themselves. But possible drawbacks include teens using the button to incorrectly report behaviors that are not bullying. What side are you on?

image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons user niiicedaveA couple of recent events and conversations have me thinking, once again, about the importance of library staff working with teens connecting with stakeholders, administrators, teens, etc. to make sure that teens have the best services possible. Here’s a brief rundown:

  • When Chris Shoemaker and I presented on YALSA’s Badges for Lifelong Learning project at the ALA Midwinter Meeting some participants talked about the struggles they continue to have in their schools and public libraries accessing what now we might call traditional technologies – YouTube, Facebook, Tumblr, etc.
  • I’ve been reading about the “new” digital divide and talking to library staff that work with teens who talk about why they can’t use devices with those they serve because of access issues.
  • I listened to teens at the YALSA Summit on Teens and Libraries talk about their use of digital media (including the aforementioned Tumbler which is filtered out of some libraries) and the importance of relationships with library staff on library use.

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Skouts flirt screen facilitates, social and local gaming

Skout Flirt Screen

Social Media has been a positive force for youth. It lets them express themselves, helps them overcome social isolation and it gives them the ability to influence the world without the freedom granted by adulthood. There is a darker side to social media as well. The most evident in recent years has been cyber bullying, but it’s not the only issue.

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If you’ve ever bumped into a teen you serve out in the “real” world, outside of the comfortable confines of the library, the interaction may have left you a little unsettled. Your personal life–your private life–is yours, right? You do things outside of work that you wouldn’t do in front of (or with) teens.

So what happens when you bump into a teen in the online world?

The way I see it, you have three choices when it comes to interacting with teens via social media.

1. Don’t Do It. Just don’t. Lock down your Facebook profile, never accept a friend request from a teen, keep your Twitter stream private and don’t allow any teens to follow you. I know plenty of librarians and educators who choose this option, and in fact an increasing number of of school districts are enacting policies to discourage (or outright forbid) teachers from “fraternizing” with students online.

2. Keep It Professional. Either maintain separate profiles for your work self and your personal self–interacting with teens only through the work profiles–or lock down your settings so that teens can only access so much. One of the easiest ways to do this is to create a list for students in your Facebook settings. Any teen you add as a friend automatically gets the most stringent settings–no access to your photos or videos, no access to your wall, no interaction with your other friends.

3. Take the Plunge. Let teens follow you on Twitter. Make mistakes, and learn from them. Find out why teens want to interact with you online. Is it because this is the way they prefer to communicate? If so, your library is making a mistake if you don’t have a presence in this world. Is it because they like what you have to say, and are taking the opportunity to “hang out” with you outside of the library?

If the thought of teens finding you on Facebook or Twitter strikes fear in your heart, maybe you should take a long, hard look at your profile and figure out why. If it’s because you want to keep your life to yourself, consider option 2; that way, you can reach out to teens on behalf of the library without compromising your own boundaries. But if you want the chance to see what teens are really saying to each other online, take a deep breath, and try option three.

Facebook messengerTitle: Facebook Messenger

Platform: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android devices.

Cost: Free.

Facebook Messenger is an app designed by the popular social networking site to be able to send a message to anyone whether it be either text or Facebook message. This is different than sending messages from your Facebook app because it can also send the same message as a text to contacts in your phone who may or may not have Facebook. The app is also able to include pictures and your location.

Thinking that this would be a great tool for advertising library programs to teens, I was quick to download the app, and it is a great tool for messaging both phone contacts and Facebook contacts. The photo function and location functions are easy to use, and sending a message is just like sending a text. Unfortunately, the photo and location features are not accessible to teens already using the Facebook Mobile app on their smart phones. The message must be viewed from the full Facebook page or the Facebook messenger app in order to get these additional features. There is also privacy issue in that names of any recipient of the message are visible to the other recipients.

However, this has the potential to be a great way to send reminders about programs to teen patrons. It reaches them wherever they are, whether they have a smart phone or not. It would also be a great way to send messages to conduct a photo scavenger hunt as patrons could send photos and messages to multiple contacts, such as team members and the librarian running the event.

A short list of tweets posted over the last week that librarians and the teens that they serve may find interesting:

  • Slides are up for @Amanda_Lenhart ‘s #SRCD talk on how teens text & talk with friends: – @pew_internet
  • RT @NYPL Want to spend all night @ NYPL, exploring the building, the stacks & our treasured objects? Here’s the chance. – @doseofsnark
  • [new blog post] “I hate technology” – @sarah_ludwig
  • “Youth will not seek out the product that we give them, they will seek out the product that they want.” #sextech – @urbanwellness
  • This history of web browsers infographic: I am in love with this trend of infographics. – @ms_bock
  • RT @tomwhitby:World’s Simplest Online Safety Policy #tlchat #echat – @joycevalenza
  • Find a poem you like, respond to the poem with a QR link or message. Voila! #PoetQRyQResponse – @maryleehahn Read More →

Welcome to the last day of Teens & Tech. I hope you enjoyed it. Sorry for the delay in getting this last post up. I was having, of all things, technology issues. Today’s topic was suggested by the Tech Integrator at my school, Allison Lundquist.


Thank you for all of the great suggestions. Here’s my problem. I’m totally blocked. I want to share awesome YouTube videos with my teachers, but YouTube is blocked. I want to create a Facebook page for my library, but Facebook is banned, too. Skype-An-Author? I’d love to, but Skype is verboten. How do I get around these filtering issues?

All Blocked Up

Dear ABU:

I feel your pain, I really do. Nothing is worse than seeing that SonicWall come up to stop you in your tracks.

Really this is an issue of intellectual freedom, the same as a book challenge. If we feel that a site has merit, we need to fight for it. The ALA office of Intellectual Freedom has a very useful page about filters and filtering.

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Yesterday Twitter (and the web in general) was abuzz with news and reports related to technology, and in particular young people and technology. Was all the news worth paying attention to? Was all the news care-worthy? Here are some thoughts:

Care: Reputation Management and Social Media
The Pew Internet in American Life Project released a report about reputation management and social media. The focus of the report is on how people, of all ages, manage what others know about them through social network environments. Read More →

This week, May 2-8, 2010 the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom sponsored the first ever Choose Privacy Week.’  Check out the official website at
While it may have served better to be posting about this last weekend, it’s never too late to talk about privacy.

I encourage you to watch the Privacy Week video. It’s long at 23 minutes, but stick with it, you will be glad you did.’  Not only does it feature beloved authors with online presences- Cory Doctorow and Neil Gaiman, and ALA president Camilla Alire, it also features an average mother with a teenage daughter who are having an open conversation about privacy. This last one is important.’  While I love public figures who speak out about the things I believe in, honest and open conversations between teens and parents, or other caring adults, are the small places where change can happen.’  Having adults who support them and help them to learn about the world around them is the ideal situation for teens to grow into adults who keep that awareness.

This is information literacy. Online privacy choices require some critical thinking.

Click through to the rest of the post and I will get into a bit of the specifics of this regarding the current stat of Facebook.

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