Student Well-Being

Portrait of a Teen Tech User

By Anthony Rebora — May 28, 2013 1 min read
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This Huffington Post article examining a pretty typical-sounding 14-year-old girl’s relationship with technology might make useful reading for middle and high school school teachers, not to mention parents, and (perhaps) education publishers and product developers. Key paragraph:

Casey's habits underscore a new reality for this networked generation: Social networks—and the gadgets they run on—aren't a distraction from real life, but a crucial extension of it.

What’s most interesting (and troubling) about the piece, though, is its portrayal of how integrated some teens’ tech habits have become with their always-acute sense of social status. For example:

Not having an iPhone can be social suicide, notes Casey. One of her friends found herself effectively exiled from their circle for six months because her parents dawdled in upgrading her to an iPhone. Without it, she had no access to the iMessage group chat, where it seemed all their shared plans were being made.

And then there’s this:

The most important and stress-inducing statistic of all is the number of "likes" she gets when she posts a new Facebook profile picture—followed closely by how many "likes" her friends' photos receive. .. "If you don't get 100 'likes,' you make other people share it so you get 100," she explains. "Or else you just get upset. Everyone wants to get the most 'likes.' It's like a popularity contest."

Also intriguing is the girl’s competing understanding that this has all gotten to be a little much for her:

For all the time Casey spends online, she predicts that soon she won't be using her smartphone or social networks as much as she has been. It's distracting, she says, as her iPhone chimes for perhaps the 12th time that hour. Her phone, be it Facebook, Instagram or iMessage, is constantly pulling her away from her homework, or her sleep, or her conversations with her family. ... "I think that in a few years, technology is going to go back and people won't use it anymore because it's getting to be a lot."

If teens see social networks as a “crucial extension” of real life, in other words, it could be that they are beginning to have some serious reservations about this state of affairs—to the point that they imagine a tech-free future.

Your thoughts? How does this profile influence (or not) your perspective on working with teenagers today or using technology in the classroom? What does the “networked generation” need from educators?

(HT: Kottke)

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.