Posts filed under ‘Social Emotional Learning’
Not long ago, prattling away on the phone was as much a teenage rite as hanging out at the mall. Flopped on the bed, you yakked into your pink or football-shaped receiver until your parents hollered at you to get off. Today’s teens, however, prefer their Sidekicks and their Blackberries and their Razor phones, not to talk, but to text.
They do it late at night when their parents are asleep. They do it in restaurants and while crossing busy streets. They do it in the classroom with their hands behind their back. They do it so much their thumbs hurt.
Daily text messaging among teens has increased from 38 percent of teens texting friends daily in 2008, to 54 percent of teens texting daily in 2009. The average teen sends and receives 50 or more messages per day, or 1,500 per month, according to a new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
Boys typically send and receive 30 texts a day while girls send and receive 80 messages per day. Older girls are the most active texters, with 14-17 year old girls sending 100 or more messages a day or more than 3,000 texts a month.
All this texting is making employers and communications experts anxious: This generation may be technologically savvier than their bosses, but will they be able to have a professional discussion?
“We are losing very natural, human, instinctive skills that we used to be really good at,” says Sonya Hamlin, author of How to Talk So People Listen: Connecting in Today’s Workplace.
A couple of years ago, Hamlin was asked to teach a class of “very bright” California high school seniors about the college admissions interview. Their mock answers were “extremely short and not informational. Nothing came out, really, because it’s such an unused skill.”
So are today’s teens losing their verbal communication skills?
Part of the reason, Hamlin says, is because “they’re not listening. With IM, you can reread six times before deciding how to answer.” There’s no improvisation, she says, none of the spontaneity of phone banter or a face-to-face chat. “Talk is a euphemism. We do it now in quotes,” Hamlin says.
And when face-to-face chats do occur, there are other verbal kinks. Stefani Beser, a freshman at Villa Julie College near Baltimore, texts so much — 20-40 times a day “if there’s a lot going on” — that the shorthand creeps into her live conversation. “You’ll be talking and all of sudden you’ll say, ‘Oh, LOL or OMG,’ ” text-speak for “laughing out loud” and “Oh My Goodness”.
But has all this texting improved the amount of communication overall?
Back home, teens text their moms regularly telling them where they are. Teachers send reminders about class projects and homework. Boyfriends and girlfriends even court each other through Facebook and then IM to get to know each other better via a digital relationship:
The primacy of the keyboard has been, well, a lifeline to the kind of guys who, a generation ago, grasped the family room receiver with a sweaty palm and a pounding heart. IM “makes life easier, absolutely,” says Nick Kacher, 17, a junior from Waltham, Mass. “I’m not a big sit-around-and-chat-on-the-phone kind of person.” Friends, and girlfriends, would needle him about his phone phobia. Now, with IM, “I definitely do chat.”
In the meanwhile, phone companies are tapping into teens’ tapping tendencies. Virgin Mobile unveiled its Switch Back, a kind of junior BlackBerry with a qwerty keyboard and AOL IM built in. “We really think that text is the new talk,” the company’s Howard Handler says. A quarter of Virgin Mobile’s teen customers use their phones for texting more than talking. “We are living in a 160-character nation,” the maximum text message length, Handler declares. Today most cell phone plans include a Media Package focused on texting rather than phone minutes.
So is texting a helping teens socially, or limiting them? These two schools of thought will play out in this new generation of young texters while our daily lives and vocabulary picks up more SMS language, (Short Message Service text slang), on a regular basis.
“Today’s tykes: Secure kids or rudest in history?” reads for me as a call to action for PlumbBrain where we can provide engaging character education tools for both kids and parents. This article makes some wide sweeping generalizations; without any comprehensive data I’m not sure how anyone accurately identifies one generation as “ruder” than another, but I appreciate the point that parents and communities need to be cultivating empathetic kids (which doesn’t mean at the expense of their self confidence). However, for every “rude” kid or parent I’ve interacted with, I can think of several delightful ones too, but I’m not sure how this ratio compares to previous generations.
Do you agree with the article’s claims of the kids are getter rudder, or are expectations and/or perceptions what are changing?
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A friend shared this with me on Facebook this morning, and it was another great reminder that we have to get kids the online tools they need now. Compared to our global counterparts, the United States is slow to innovate. Kids across the country need the social emotional tools we can provide in the online context they thrive in, today – not five years from now.
At OneSeventeen Media, we often talk about providing kids tools to survive their youth. We firmly believe that social-emotional learning, crisis intervention, relevant content and experience sharing are keys in helping our young people navigate the choppy waters of adolescent life. Two stories stuck out to me over the last week as examples that our collective youth are in desperate need of resources to help them survive and overcome the challenges of growing up; too often our teens seek out extreme, self-destructive measures as a means of emotional release.
The Today Show shared the story of Jesse Logan, the promising Ohio teen who hung herself as an escape from the torture she endured as part of a sexting breakup scandal. My heart aches for the Logan family, and I see two opportunities for communities of youth and adults to learn from their tragic experience. We’ve got to work on teaching kids to be savvy digital citizens and drive home the potential long-term ramifications of their short-term digital decisions. Secondly, we must improve and innovate upon the opportunities and resources we provide kids for coping with their emotional distress. In Jesse’s situation, her school administration and mother were both tuned in to her struggles, but Jesse still found herself unable to fully disclose her distress and find the help she needed.
This week, the New York Times did an intriguing piece on the young adult novel, Thirteen Reasons Why and its quiet rise to bestseller status. In full disclosure, I have not read the book (but will be reading it soon!). The NYT explains that Jay Ashers debut novel,
is made up of the transcripts of audiotapes that 16-year-old Hannah Baker recorded before committing suicide, interspersed with the reactions of a high school classmate who listens to them. Each tape reveals an anecdote about another classmate whose actions the girl blames for her death.
While this simplistic description may sound morbid, the story obviously resonates with its youth audience evident in its number three spot on the NYT Bestseller List. One student shared his takeaway after finishing the book,
“I think the whole message of the book is to be careful what you do to people, because you never know what they’re going through,” said Christian Harvey, a 15-year-old sophomore at Port Charlotte High School in Port Charlotte, Fla. “You can really hurt somebody, even with the littlest thing.”
Harvey’s understanding shares a powerful learning opportunity for students, and whether youth identify with Asher’s work as the victim, bully or bystander, their interest is evidence that relevant content carries tremendous weight. Students are hungry for information about the struggles of teen life, and as adults it is our responsibility to make sure we provide them the life-saving resources they need.
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The OneSeventeen Media team is a group of long-time believers that kids want to use technology to as a means to self-help. We’ve consistently seen youth reaching out for tools and information to navigate their way through difficult situations and the complications of growing up.
Louis Leung, Ph.D. Associate Professor & Director of the Center for Communication Research at the School of Journalism & Communication at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, affirms our belief in his research (via Next Great Thing):
He found that when kids are stressed they use technology to help moderate their emotions. That is, when kids in his study found themselves under stress, they interacted with technology to both moderate their moods and access social networks. Through the Internet, they accessed entertainment and information and sought “social compensation” through recognition and relationship management.
Consistent with good mental health, they recognized the need to seek help. The more social support a subject was able to access, the less impact stress had on their lives.
Adults are often hesitant to believe that youth are eager to share their challenges and solve problems through technology, but the world’s first online generation is asking for just that.
(Image found here)