How’s your team doing in March Madness? Mine just got to the Sweet Sixteen! While you’re waiting for the next time your alma mater plays, check out some of these interesting ideas and insights.

  • We all know that teens love to text. To respond to this, many schools and colleges now use text message alerts to notify students of school closures or safety issues. But what about health issues? It turns out, lots of doctors and researchers use text message interventions to tackle adolescent health concerns. In North Carolina, a free texting service offered teens the chance to anonymously ask questions about sexual health, and the teens involved in the study said that the service made them feel confident and encouraged them to follow up and learn more about their health. A similar study in 2011 offered teens weight management tips, and the weight and BMI of the study participants decreased after the intervention. College aged smokers participated in an intervention that left 40% of them staying away from smoking for a period of at least 7 days, while other participants reported less dependency on nicotine, which is also a good sign. Obviously as librarians, we cannot offer health advice. But what can you take from this study? Can school libraries use a texting service to alert students of new titles in the collection or upcoming book club meetings? Can public libraries partner with public health organizations to offer helpful services for teens concerned with a certain health or behavior issue? Can teen advisory groups pilot their own peer mentoring or counseling texting program? There are a lot of possibilities, and medical research shows that such programs can have really great results. Read More →
  • Google texts and teen writing skills and you will get many articles on how texting negatively effects teen’s formal writing skills, all loaded with quotes from teachers about how they have seen the negative impact texting has on these skills.

    The most interesting article I found was in the New York Times , printed in 2002 . The arguments made almost ten years ago are still the sames ones you will read about over and over in any article/blog/web forum today. Basically, that the shorthand teens use in text messaging is detrimental to their writing and can be found in written assignments, much to the frustration of their teachers.

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    Yesterday the Pew Internet in American Life project released a report on wireless Internet use. When I first heard about the report I didn’t think very broadly about what the data might have to say about the impact of access for teens (and for libraries for that matter). But, when I read several news reports that highlighted findings that wireless access, particularly on mobile devices, is serving to lessen the digital divide I started thinking about teens. While not everyone has what some might consider traditional internet access at home – a wired or wireless connection that is used with a laptop or desktop – that doesn’t mean that the Internet isn’t available in the home. People are accessing the Internet with laptops and desktops and they are using game consoles and handheld devices for their access.

    If outside of the school teens use handheld devices and gaming consoles to access the Internet, we need to look at how our resources are provided to the age group. We need to make sure to provide access to programs and services in ways that work well for someone using an Internet enabled device. For example: Read More →

    At ALA’s Mid-Winter Conference in January a teen services librarian asked members of the Teen Tech Week committee if we could recommend any Internet sites that allow users to send text messages to cell phones. The teens at her library had asked if they could receive event reminders via text messages sent to their cell phones rather than by standard e-mail. She was trying to find a way to accommodate their request that would be inexpensive and not too labor intensive. Since this was not the first time this question had been posed to members of the committee, I volunteered to do some research and see what’s out there. Read More →

    This morning, during my 6:00 am treadmill/news watching time, I saw a report about teens facing possible jail time for sexting–sending sexual images via cell phone.’  We are all aware that teens need to be informed of the dangers of online predators.’  And once something’s on the web, it’s there to stay.’  But this is new:’  teens are facing legal charges because distributing these images is being considered the same as distributing child pornography–an illegal practice in most states. Read More →

    Via RH Reality Check, I’ve learned about the awesome SexInfo. Launched in San Francisco by Internet Sexuality Infomartion Services (ISIS), SexInfo lets teens receive health information via text message when they send numerical codes for common questions–1 for a broken condom, 6 if you’re not sure you want to have sex, and so on. While the texts require minimal effort on the part of teens, the messages they receive in response fully utilize the character limit. Responses include clinic addresses, hours and phone numbers, and a brief (often empowering) message to the teen, like “It’s ur choice 2 have sex or not.” Read More →

    Pew Internet in American Life logoToday the Pew Internet in American Life Project released a new report titled Writing, Technology, and Teens. The opening paragraph of the report states:

    Teenagers’ lives are filled with writing. All teens write for school, and 93% of teens say they write for their own pleasure. Most notably, the vast majority of teens have eagerly embraced written communication with their peers as they share messages on their social network pages, in emails and instant messages online, and through fast-paced thumb choreography on their cell phones. Parents believe that their children write more as teens than they did at that age.

    The core of the report focuses on what teens have to say about their own writing practices. The findings in the report span teen writing practices in and out of school and look at what mode teens use to write – long-hand or computer, the most common types of writing, and the impact of technology on teen writing behaviors.

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    I went to my first Computers in Libraries conference this week. It’s going to take more than one post to mention all the cool things I learned.

    But first, let me say that CiL is a really fun conference. It felt a lot more low-key than ALA mid-winter to me; maybe that was because everyone who was there was pretty like-minded about technology and just excited to be talking about what’s new and innovative. Or maybe it was because I’m starting to feel less left out of things: I got to meet many friendly library professionals from all over the place. I’m definitely starting to feel like a genuine member of the greater library community (and I made some new Twitter friends).

    CiL basically consists of three days of presentations, and each day is broken into five tracks. You can stick with the presentations in your track for the whole day, or you can bounce around, which is what I did. I tried to balance my schedule between sessions that I knew would apply specifically to my job and sessions that were about information that I thought I should know about as a new public librarian. For example, I attended “From WoePAC to WowPAC,” a double session on OPACs, since I know nothing about them beyond the very basics. I also tried to check out anything I could find about marketing, since that’s a major component of what I’ll be doing in building a new teen program from the ground up.

    So here’s some information I got from some of the most useful and fascinating sessions.

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    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.