Wes: Technology is a lot like the Kansas weather. Give it a minute or two and it’ll change. In fact, the biggest technological change in the last five years is actually the pace of change itself, no longer measured in generations, or even years, but in months.
Young people are usually at the forefront of these things, while even tech-savvy parents feel left in the dust. For instance, how many parents realize that for teens, Facebook is pretty much passé? Who knows the difference between Twitter, Tumblr and Tinder, which of these accounts their kids maintain, and what they’re posting? In my experience, the answer is often a blank stare.
Another change is immediacy. In just 15 years, phones have gone from boxes on a wall, to Star Trek-like personal communication devices, to tiny super-computers. That kind of NOW communication is why Twitter is replacing Facebook, and why Tinder (a dating app for the iPhone) is gaining popularity on OKCupid and Match.com.
Unfortunately, for many teens, NOW also means poorly thought out and impulsive interactions for everyone to see, which brings us to…
Availability. Even very young kids have access to the Web, many with parents who haven’t quite realized that as electronic baby sitters go, the TV was a big, purple dinosaur. The Internet? Fire-breathing dragon.
On the air
Join Dr. Wes and Free State grads Emily VanSchmus and Ben Soukop on Up to Date with Steve Kraske today at 11 a.m. They’ll be discussing the trends and implications of teen technology and taking listener calls.
You can put up filters, but kids are going to stumble across explicit content, and as they journey through puberty, go looking for it.
How many parents have installed filters on their kid’s iPhones and iPads? That’s what I thought. You might want to Google “Mobicip.”
And finally, a quick word on speed, the other big news in teen tech. Streaming high-definition content means that not only can kids watch just about every ridiculous thing imaginable (and a few really amazing ones) but they can also produce and broadcast them. They might even make a buck.
This opens vast new horizons for young filmmakers and podcast stars, and new headaches for parents.
Bottom line: 21st-century parents don’t get to be technophobes or even befuddled adopters. Technology calls your child like a siren on a rocky shore. Be ready with the messages you want them to hear and the ethics you choose to guide them with wisely through those waters. You might try texting that list to them. Or perhaps a series of tweets…
Note: Double Take’s resident tech expert Emily VanSchmus subs for Katie this week, though Katie wants her readers to know that she recently surrendered to her first iPhone. Reluctantly. We techies will get you yet, Katie!
Emily VanSchmus: With new devices and apps being thrown into the market every week, it’s increasingly clear that technology is not the only thing changing for the young-adult community. Social status is becoming more and more dependent on what and where you post. Thanks to Twitter, Instagram and Vine, everyone knows where you are, who you’re with, what you’re doing, and has probably seen a photo or a video of you doing it — all to prove to the online world that you do, in fact, have a life.
This social media diary seems all pro and no con to the developing teenage mind. You post a Vine (a six-second video) of someone drunk at a party, and your “popularity” goes up. You’ve now proven that you were at the party (social popularity), and everyone that knows the drunk person thinks the video is hilarious, guaranteeing you several “likes” which gives you “social media popularity.”
While it sounds ridiculous laid out here on paper, it’s actually become a delicate social game that must be maintained at all times. Because of this need for likes or favorites, privacy is intentionally avoided. If you protect your tweets, fewer people will follow you, fewer will like your tweets, and no one can retweet you, leaving you with even fewer followers, likes or both. The same principle applies to other social media.
Who sees these posts is just one aspect of privacy in the realm of social media: what teenagers are posting is perhaps the more unsettling of the two. With the demand for “social media popularity” so high, young adults don’t stop to differentiate between what content will give them the most likes now and what may be deemed too personal later on. Those posts and subtweets that gave you likes and followers in high school could hurt you later on in life.
Consider what you would want future employers or a graduate school committee to see. Chances are it’s not going to be that tweet that got 30 favorites or those well-liked photos of you posing with red solo cups.
And besides, is all this social media real popularity or just perceived popularity? It’s an important question too few teens and young adults are asking themselves in these days of 24/7 connection.