Teens, Texting and Social Isolation

The Pew Internet and American Life Project recently released a report about teens and mobile phone use. Shortly after, The New York Times ran a story suggesting that this report (among other things) indicates that teens are becoming less social.  Hilary Stout writes:

One of the concerns is that, unlike their parents — many of whom recall having intense childhood relationships with a bosom buddy with whom they would spend all their time and tell all their secrets — today’s youths may be missing out on experiences that help them develop empathy, understand emotional nuances and read social cues like facial expressions and body language. With children’s technical obsessions starting at ever-younger ages — even kindergartners will play side by side on laptops during play dates — their brains may eventually be rewired and those skills will fade further, some researchers believe.

Rich Ling, of The Pew Internet and American Life Project, posted a follow-up clarifying some aspects of the report. He points out that the study only surveyed texting outside of school and that the study also shows that “face-to-face interaction is holding relatively steady.” He also observes that texting is happening “in addition to other forms of social interaction” not in place of it. Ling’s interpretation of the data is quite contrary to that of The New York Times:

another interpretation is that teens actually have more access and more informal, casual contact because of texting. This is because texting is woven into the flow of other activities. In essence their friends are always there and always available for a texting “chat.” This interpretation follows from the material on texting in class, texting at night, and in a variety of other situations. Rather than becoming monks sitting in their cells, the material may actually point in the direction of more social interaction, not less.

Take the Plunge Integrate Social Media Into the Classroom

Thinking of using social media to aid with teaching and learning? But not sure where to start?  There is a great post over at Mashable with 4 Tips for Integrating Social Media Into the Classroom

1. Let Down the Filters, Cautiously

52% of schools said they prohibit any use of social networking sites on campus. Some districts are working toward making those sites more accessible to students, but they need an educational justification to do so while ensuring usage won’t be abused.

2. Add “Digital Citizenship” to the Curriculum

Susan Brooks Young, a former educator who is now a technology consultant for schools, likens children’s social media usage to driving; neither activities are going away. “We really guide them through the process of driving to make it as safe as we can. Social media in a lot of ways parallels that. You would never just give that child a set of car keys.”

3. Keep One Eye on Student Conduct, the Other on the Law

Many states have laws giving schools authority over off-campus conduct if it disrupts in-school instruction. Francine Ward, a California-based lawyer specializing in social media issues, expects the number of cases involving social media use and schools to climb in the next few years. The best way to get ahead of this is to amend every school’s “Code of Conduct” to include online activity, if only to have a policy in place when something does erupt. Adding social media policy to student handbooks sends a message that schools take online usage seriously.

4. Teach With Social Media

A 2009 survey commissioned by PBS shows digital and social media use by teachers is on the rise, but social media usage in classes lags behind other types of media. While 76% of American K-12 teachers say they use digital media in class, only 29% say they use a social networking site or social media community for instruction.

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Creative Commons licensed photo used courtesy of My Silent Side

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