A student of mine once said to me, "I'm so happy it's summer and I can't wait to go camping with my family because where we camp, there's no cell phone service." Her comment stuck with me as I read Ana Homayoun's book Social Media Wellness. I would wager to guess that most adolescents view cell phones as both a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing to have 24/7 access to your friends and not have to go through the antiquated methods we used- calling your friend's house and having to go through the pleasantries when her parents answered the phone- "Oh Hi Mr. Roberts, yes swim team is going well. Is Alice available to talk?" And yet, I also hear from the students I work with that it's a curse. "My friends get mad at me if I don't respond right away to their texts but my parents take my phone when I'm doing homework," lamented a student of mine.
I've read Social Media Wellness cover to cover twice and I still takeaway something new each time. I want to highlight Chapter 3 from the book- "Five Ways Social Media Affects Today's Tweens and Teens." One of Homayoun's five examples she discusses is this "always on mentality." I think this is something both adults and students struggle with and it's something I feel contributes to the rising anxiety levels of students today. Instead of copying homework assignments off the board, many students are redirected to their teacher's online page to check for assignments and often there's this fear (real or perceived) of an assignment being posted without a student knowing it. "Walking into school on Monday and finding out there was an assignment posted that I didn't know about is my worst fear," says a student, "so I check my online homework calendar all the time to make sure that never happens."
Technology hasn't just changed the way students get and turn in homework assignments; it's changed how they communicate. Interacting socially with friends doesn't end at 3pm anymore or even when after school activities are over, it continues throughout the evening and often late into the wee hours of the morning. Students talk about the constant notifications and buzzing that happens when they're trying to sleep or do homework. Navigating boundaries around social media has become one of the hardest lessons for students to set with their peers. "I don't know how to tell my friends that sometimes I just want to be left alone at night" or "sometimes it's easier if I make up a story or blame it on my parents so friends don't get mad if I don't respond right away."
If you haven't read Social Media Wellness I highly encourage you to do so. There are great points that resonate with both parents and students and in particular this "always on mentality" is something that adults and adolescents can resonate with and perhaps share strategies.