Born Connected

“Mummy, why don’t you have on Facebook pictures of yourself when you were a kid?” This is what my seven year old son asked me once when I was showing him some photos of when he was a toddler that came up as a memory in my feed. While looking at the photos, I mentioned that in one of them he looked just the way I used to look when I was about the same age. My son asked to see a photo of me as toddler so he could see the resemblance himself. Sadly, I had no photos to show him, and I had to explain that most of my childhood photos are in photo albums stored in a closet in my mum’s house in Colombia. The above discussion led to a deeper talk about how back then we didn’t have phones with cameras and social media was probably someone’s wildest dream.

As the report of the Digital Youth Project asserts, new technologies are ever present in the lives of young people these days. According to the Ofcom survey of 2016, 99% of the surveyed people between 16 and 24 years old in the UK, use social media once a week or more.


New technologies, and in particular social media, are intimately related to the way teens connect with their peers, and in the way they learn and develop different types of relationships. Furthermore, these technologies help them find ways to hang out, for example, when using video chats when they can’t meet in person; they are also part of hanging out, for example, when together they access a music sharing app to set up a playlist of their favourite tunes.

Undoubtedly, there are a myriad of advantages of growing up in a time of connectedness and instant access to the world’s knowledge. In the course of an hour, a student researching space exploration can look up websites for information, search engines for the most up to date photos of astronomical phenomena, watch a live feed from the International Space Station, and even connect with past, current, and future space explorers through social media. Unimaginable a generation ago.

On the other hand, the Digital Youth Project report discusses how social media has reshaped social norms related to how we interact in and out social media. For instance, the report elaborates on what they call “controlled casualness”, where the asynchronous nature of social media allow the users to carefully craft what they post online, which is something more difficult to do in face to face situations. In a way, controlled casualness allows the users to create the persona they want to portray online, which can even be different from one social network to the other. This video by illustrates this point:

The ability to shape and enhance what we present online, can create digital representations that do not necessarily correspond to reality. For many teens, posting the perfect selfie, which looks all casual and impromptu, implies time and effort, from the many versions of the photo that were taken, choosing the best one, to the filters and alterations made to make it look outstanding. The idea of perfect, interesting lives can be crafted through meticulously selected posts. The public nature of social media draw teens to compare themselves to the images and posts they see online, sometimes creating anxiety and depression for feeling less “cool” or less attractive or interesting. A UK survey from the Royal Society for Public Health has even pinpointed two social media platforms, Instagram and Snapchat, as two of the most detrimental for teens’ mental health. If we take into account that between 40-50% of teens use these apps, it is clear that we, as a society, have a lot of work to do to make sure we are equipping youths with the skills to navigate our connected world.


As educators, parents, and policy makers wrap their heads around this situation, one thing is undeniable: the ever changing new technologies and social media are here to stay. They have changed the way we interact and will continue to do so as they evolve and as new ones come in. The key here is to assume the responsibility that comes from introducing these technologies to the public, and create the best tools to educate and prepare the new generations to become curators of the content they consume, and to use social media and the Internet to their advantage.


Featured image by Free-Photos on Pixabay


5 thoughts on “Born Connected

  1. Although I do not teach teenage students (I teach 1st graders), I connect with this both as a teacher and parent. When you stated, “The public nature of social media draw teens to compare themselves to the images and posts they see online, sometimes creating anxiety and depression…” it makes me really rethink how I need to prepare my students and children to deal with these societal norms. We have such a great responsibility to model appropriate social networking behaviors as well as prepare them for the realities of what they will experience because of them.

    I recently attended the 21st Century tech conference in Hong Kong where I was fortunate to attend a session presented by Kristin Ziemke ( titled Read The World Now: Digital Pedagogy for Today and Tomorrow. In part of this session she gave some staggering statistics about teen usage of different media for different purposes. 64% of their time spent online was consumption; listening to music, watching videos, watching TV, reading, playing games, browsing websites. 26% of time spent was using social media and video chatting. Only a staggering 3% of time was used for creation of art, music, writing, or programming.

    We really have become a generation largely based on consumption and we definitely need to teach them to be curators of the content they consume. However, I also believe it is equally important for us as teachers and parents to model and promote media creation as much as possible. Fostering these skills in our young children and teens very early will help them to be active contributors to society and prepare for the ever-changing jobs of the future.


  2. I got completely lost in your links to past, present, and future space explorers – it’s really mindblowing stuff!

    I will be showing that video to my advisory class. I wonder how they will react to it – they always claim that their online life is fine and honest and kind and all of the wonderful things. I want to believe them, (I really do!), but I also see so much truth in this video. My students are almost exclusively Snapchat and Instagram (Facebook is for old people) – I am interested in how they curate their posts. And the implications of that pressure – they certainly don’t rush to admit it exists!

    I read (online) that France is looking at banning mobile phones in schools to reduce social media use and addiction, what do you think about that? I feel like it’s an extreme reaction that won’t necessarily help our students manage their online lives. Like Jessica mentioned, we need to model behavior and teach our students how to be safe. Creating opportunities for content creation seems like a wonderful place to focus!

    And @jessicarosephillips, thanks for the link to Kristin Ziemke, I’ll take a look and see if I can find something to add to our COETAIL reads.


    1. I agree with you and Jessica about the importance of allowing the students to learn how to responsibly use technology, instead of banning it. Modeling is key, and as with any learning process, the students should have a myriad of hands-on experiences for learning to happen. The use of technology is no different, in my view, because it is another skill that the students will need to acquire.

      I had also heard about France banning phones, and after your comment, I did a little research and it turns out that France already has a ban on the use of phones in classes and other learnings spaces (gyms, libraries, canteens, etc.). The “enhanced” ban proposes to extend the prohibition to all areas of the school, so students won’t be allowed to use their phones during break times or while walking in the corridors. In theory, the new ban will start on September 2018. It is interesting that the new proposed ban won’t include high schools. I am assuming this is because they think that high schoolers, being older, have better skills so they can manage their use of phones in a sensible way. The question is, how does the government expect them to know this if they don’t have opportunities to practice, fail and learn in a safe space? It’s ludicrous! It is also ludicrous that phones have already been banned from classrooms, specially taking into account that it is improbable that all French classrooms are fitted with devices or have 1:1 programmes, which limits the opportunities for teachers and students to access Web 2.0 tools.

      The two articles I read about the French ban are:


  3. Wow – thanks for digging a little deeper into this movement in France. I didn’t realise that it was only in elementary schools. I instantly felt some relief (from my selfish HS point of view) but then I agree with your points about creating opportunities to learn skills and behaviour alongside technology. I have some friends at the International School in Paris, I will see if I can find out if this impacts them at all – perhaps it’s only government schools?


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