It's a social world out there.

My Beat.

Posted on: July 13, 2009

My Beat.

In the last two years my life has completely changed. I went from being a care -ree college student to a young professional trying to find my place in the world.  I had fully planned on this being a seamless transition, where I fell into a great job and began a career I loved. As I’m sure most of you can guess, that didn’t not happen.  After the stress of job searches, cover letters, interviews and offers I was unwilling to accept I began to question what I want, where you are going with my life.  After three long months of this, I got a job offer for a job I felt would use my degree, help in building a career and possibly be enjoyable. This job at an independent boarding and day school for girls in grades 7-12, was  in communications and marketing, I started September 11, 2007. Since that day two years ago the young women from across the globe have taught me more than I ever thought possible.  Their use of interactive communications technologies for socialization are simply amazing, those girls using those ICTs are my beat.

Adolescent girls are amazing creatures. It wasn’t until I began living as a dorm parent with middle school boarding students that I truly realized the amount of social skill building that happens during this time in their lives. They have not yet learned what it is and is not ok to say to friends, or better yet enemies.  Adolescent girls are using ICTs as their main social network, they are building social skills from these devices and services.  As I study ICTs I always come back to how they will effect younger generations.  In learning about and developing these technologies I will always consider how and why they will effect young women.

The girls that I parented this year where from Korea, Mexico, Taiwan, China, Japan and various US states, they were between the ages of 12 and 16.  They are thrown into a dorm room with someone they have never met from the opposite side of the globe, they must take on responsibilities they didn’t know exsisted. I hope at this point you are thinking, ‘that is crazy!’, that was my first response to learning how these girls lived, without parents for nine months. It is crazy! They are so young in so many ways, this is where I first saw ICTs become a huge part of their social development.  Whether it is a cell phone, ipod touch, laptop or website they know what they are doing with ICTs adolescent girls are using these tools to develop social skills.

It seems clear that these girls would use all kinds of ICTs to interact with one another as well as with family on the other side of the world. I knew when I began working at Stoneleigh-Burnham that the girls here had grown up with technologies I hadn’t used until I was out of college. It was one night when I was asked to meet Paola’s parents on Skype that I fully realized how ICT maintain their relationships with family and friends from home.  In one night I would hear a mobile phone conversation in Korean, see a Skype conversation in Spanish, see a Facebook page in Japanese and hear the dings of IM conversations sending messages all over the world.  Adolescents girls have woven  ICTs into every part of their lives. How will this affect their real-life social skills? Will they lose the ability start a conversation in person or will it aid their face-to-face interactions?  This is something I am extremely interested in and passionate about, I want to be able to teach them how and why to best use ICTs, but without fully understanding their impact that seems impossible.

In two years I have gone from being a care-free undergrad student to a young adult who sees a Skype conversation and ponders its effects. Adolescent girls have remarkable computer skills, they can text like I have never seen, they know ICTs inside and out and never even had to lean, they were born into a life that involved these devices and constant connection.  This will effect how they develop relationships, how they interact throughout their lives.   It is my hope that I can study these trends and better understand how online social networking affects all who use it.


3 Responses to "My Beat."

Sounds like a great topic! I’ll be watching to see where you go with this. You might try tracking on a project I’m involved with: search the web for Digital Media & Learning. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot out there now, but later in the year, there will be.

I am excited to learn more about how ICTs are effecting growth into adulthood. Some interesting research is sure to appear soon! Thanks for the tip!

Great idea for a topic! It would also be interesting to look at the differences in the use of technology between girls and boys …

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