Here's something I don't read or hear discussed much:
There is fundamental difference between how a 30, 40, 50, 60 year-old professional and a tween or teen might choose to use social networking tools. Same is true for any of the media sharing sites we have at our disposal. A professional person (a postgraduate with a job and real life responsibilities) has a completely different raison d'etre
than, well, a child. But both are equally vulnerable to the dark side of tech tools like Twitter and Texting.
TEENS, TEXTING AND SLEEP DEPRIVATION
I bought heavily into the Digital Native/Digital Immigrant
argument early on but something isn't feeling right anymore as I see so many (digital) presentations by these so-called natives about how out of touch (we?) immigrants are. Many of these presentations are clearly scripted by adults
(are they, then, "neo-natives"?) but they have the students deliver the message. To be clear before I continue: my
raison d'etre is to promote what's best about 21st century learning/tools. This should be evident by reading my blog posts and bio
. The issue, though, is that too many of us are assuming that since kids use cell phones, other handheld devices and computers regularly (not all do) that they are using these tools in productive useful ways and to learn. They may look sophisticated and "involved" but my own observations and conversations with students confirms to me that there's an awful lot of trivia being exchanged and so much healthy, youthful energy is being wasted.
To wit: A middle school girl was complaining recently about being tired. "Why?", I asked. She responded that "this one" referring to the boy next to her "texted me at 9:30 and I was already asleep". I said, "Was it important? What did he say?". The boy offered that he just wanted to 'bother' her so I asked the girl, "Why don't you turn your phone off when you go to bed?" Response: "I don't know. I don't want to miss something. I keep it on all night"
As usual, then I began thinking. I am concerned. I am concerned because this is an independent, strong, smart and talented young lady. She's the kind of girl who teaches herself to play and sing songs by Colbie
Caillat and Sara
Bareilles and who plays goalie for an All- Star soccer team. Yet....yet she feels she has to answer a text message by a boy who woke her up just to annoy her. We're not talking about friends here. We're talking about a boy she doesn't really associate with or like. I think that if this happens to strong, talented, independent girls how about those with weaker self-esteems? Are they waiting for every text with bated breath as some sort of personal 'validation' even if it comes from people they don't like or know well. And what does it say about the boy and his apparent lack of boundaries? I'm concerned. I have read about the rising epidemic of teens losing sleep
because they sleep with cell phones under their pillows. I now have evidence that this is real and that sleep is being lost for no good reason at all for some young people. That's a pitfall of texting for teens. Speaking as an advocate of technology in all forms, I see no reason that anyone under the age of 18 needs a cell phone, or at least a plan that involves texting. No reason at all. Perhaps that seems like a contradiction but I believe in limits.
TWITTER, ADULTS AND SLEEP DEPRIVATION
If you have a Twitter account, you know that you can follow people who may have some valuable insight into things you are interested in. For me, I follow people who "tweet" interesting messages about education, education technology, internet learning tools, arts and music education. I use twitter more like an action research project where my tweets, in time, become chronological data points that can help map my learning and understanding from day to day. I read articles that others suggest reading. It's highly educational for me. It is a form of professional development
However, I do witness the potential pitfalls of twitter everyday. Here are two things I have witnessed that concern me:
- Some people I used to follow were always online. Seriously. Always. One person I used to follow made 2-3 tweets EVERY HOUR in a 24 hour period. Huh? Really? Is this necessary? Why? He had many followers and tended to send direct messages to me. Not creepy messages. Just chummy, "thanks" kind of messages. I don't know this person in real life but I sensed he felt validated by the "connection" to strangers. Is he the grown up version of teens with low self esteem? Is the tweeting a potential addiction? Does he need help? He definitely needs to sleep. So do others who incessantly use the service. It's a pitfall.
- The constant river of information that is Twitter in itself concerns me. It sets up a false sense that one is "missing" something. Go 8 hours without checking your twitter account and, wow, there's some catching up to do! Any sane person, though, realizes, it's impossible to catch it all, to read it all, to synthesize it ALL.
In the end a good life requires balance. Now that we're wired, connected and connected wirelessly all the time, we need to fight for this balance, lest we begin to lose sight of the big picture. It's really what we need to teach our children now: Tech Tools can be used in positive ways to learn, create and express yourself AND Tech Tools can be used in negative ways that waste time, cause sleep deprivation and can potentially damage your health, sense of well being and, consequently, your future success. Let's teach them to unplug and power down once the work is done.
Let's model it, too. It's almost summer. Log off. Get some sleep.