Social media and technology are opening new ways for teens to connect.
The Rape Treatment Center held its 2nd annual “What the Tech?” Conference, bringing together leading national experts to explore creative ways that teens are using digital media as a vehicle for learning, connecting with peers, and violence prevention. At the conference, speakers examined how digital media can help boys overcome academic hurdles, such as literacy problems, to improve their interest and engagement in school activities.
“Kids are creating communities, finding other kids who share their passions, and building really powerful learning networks to enhance their expertise and enthusiasm,” said S. Craig Watkins, Professor of Radio-Television-Film, University of Texas at Austin and a member of the MacArthur Foundation’s Connected Learning Research Network.
Speakers addressed the important but often misunderstood role that the digital world plays in teen socialization. Rather than a source of isolation, video games and other digital environments have increasingly become a meeting place for teens to collectively solve problems. Online forums and games provide an opportunity for boys to participate in collaborative reasoning and evaluation.
“One of the wonderful things about gaming is the connectivity it offers young men. Boys who might be isolated in their school or isolated in their class can have a lot of gaming friends with whom they’re in close contact,” said Peg Tyre, Pulitzer-winning journalist and author. “While they may not describe it the way girls do, they are getting the protective effects of what friendship offers. If a child has a friend we know they are less anxious, less depressed and more resilient, and if gaming friends can offer that to our sons I think that’s all for the good.”