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Extension > Youth Development Insight > October 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Teen Facebook posts can now be public. Does it matter?

trudy-dunham.jpg Facebook changed its policy for teens last week. In the past, teens' posts could only be seen by "friends" and "friends of friends". Now, they can designate their posts for public viewing.

Does this matter? Should teens have the same privacy, or lack of privacy, rights as adults?

There are concerns about what this will mean for teens. Will this policy change further compromise their online safety? Will the impact of cyber bullying, its frequency or severity, increase? Will more young people jeopardize their educational and career futures by "unwise" posting of images, opinions and links? Will marketing become even more focused on youth, as information about their likes and activities are harvested for more specific ad targeting?

And does it matter?
All these are possible and may even be likely outcomes of this Facebook change in policy. It raises the risks to youth who use social media, and youth who just know teens who do. But it also places their Facebook posts in the same category as Twitter and other social media use where teen postings have long been public.
The more important question is that, given the policy change, how can we use it as a teaching and learning opportunities as we work with youth? And, will youth use it to foster their awareness and understanding of personal privacy, and to enhance their voice and role in American society?

Privacy in today's digital society, where it is almost impossible to erase or hide one's presence and involvement, is something that we all need to learn to manage. Even if you don't have a Facebook account, your friend or family member does. And they have the camera in their pocket to snap those embarrassing photos of you, along with the right to tell stories about you and comment on your behavior online.

I think this change in policy can be an opportunity for us to mentor youth in growing into the responsibility of handling their online persona and social media accounts.

Have you talked with friends and family about their preferences on being "captured online"? Have you talked about what images, links and stories are appropriate for including in one's timeline? Have you considered the importance of using "is this being kind and generous?" or other criterion, as a filter before posting something online?

What do you want the world to know about you? That you like cat videos, what you had for lunch, the latest gossip about who did what? These posts can be fun. But is that really what you want the whole world to know about you? If you are going to make posts public, take advantage of the opportunity to craft your online persona.

What causes do you support? Can you use social media to express your opinion on these issues, to become a 'clickactivist'? Raise awareness of upcoming events and opportunities to show one's support? Express opinions of current events? Talk about recent research and scientific findings? Raise funds for needed research or services? Advocate for candidates or policies?

Perhaps you want social media to increase your community engagement. You may want to post about the need for safer walking paths or longer library hours, or how to decrease street litter and light pollution. You may want to showcase the success of the school debate team or an opportunity for community service.

Or perhaps you want social media to be a venue for your creative self-expression, your ideas, and the application of your skills in hobbies and community.

With our youngest teens, we should encourage them to keep their settings set on "friends" or "friends of friends." We can help them learn about privacy and responsible use. But as teens mature, they can use the opportunity of public postings to showcase what is important to them and who they are. This does require effort and maturity to take advantage of the opportunities while limiting the possible dangers and negative effects. Even we adults could use a little help!

-- Trudy Dunham, research fellow

You are welcome to comment on this blog post. We encourage civil discourse, including spirited disagreement. We will delete comments that contain profanity, pornography or hate speech--any remarks that attack or demean people because of their sex, race, ethnic group, etc.--as well as spam.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Start seeing youth with incarcerated parents

sara-langworthy.jpgHow does incarceration affect the youth and families that you work with every day? Chances are, more than you know. You don't have to play too many rounds of six degrees of separation to find someone who's affected by incarceration. In 2011, 6.98 million people were incarcerated in the U.S -- about 1 out of 34 adults.

How many of those 6.98 million people have children? Sixty-one percent of women and 53% of men who are incarcerated are parents. In 2007, an estimated 1.75 million children under age 18 had a parent in a state or federal prison in the U.S. An estimated 1 in 15 African American children in the U.S. have a parent who is incarcerated.

In fact, there are more children with an incarcerated parent than there are with autism or juvenile diabetes.

Despite the shockingly high prevalence of parental incarceration, their children remain largely invisible as such. That's unfortunate, because they could use some extra help. We know that they are at higher risk for behavior problems, cognitive problems and delays in school.

incarcerated-mother.jpgIn fact, the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study indicates that individuals who had multiple risk factors, including having an incarcerated parent as a child, were at higher risk for many health problems later in life, including depression, substance abuse and suicide attempts. More recent research has found that maternal conviction and arrest is associated with youth's increased involvement with the juvenile justice system, and increased risky health behaviors.

Despite these staggering numbers and the disturbing health and education outcomes for these children, this issue has not received much attention from policymakers, practitioners, researchers or the general public.

So I ask you to think about it again: How does incarceration affect the youth and families that you work with every day?

Having an incarcerated parent may not be the only life turmoil these youth experience. In fact, there are probably many other, more easily recognizable risk factors that these youth endure. Having an incarcerated parent is linked to other risk factors including poverty, parental substance use, and parental mental health problems. These other risk factors may be more recognizable, and you as a practitioner, educator or provider may have better resources to handle those types of risk factors, but youth who have an incarcerated parent face a unique set of challenges and stressors.

Overwhelming numbers of youth are experiencing the affects of incarceration, yet society has done little to recognize and address the needs of these youth. However, that is beginning to change. Due to many recent initiatives to raise awareness of this important issue, resources are becoming more available, and these children's needs are being addressed. Meeting those needs starts with recognition on the part of those who surround youth everyday to provide understanding, support and assistance.
So I ask you again, one more time, how does incarceration affect the youth and families that you work with everyday?

Do you know? Will you ask? Will you start seeing these invisible youth?

-- Sara Langworthy, former policy coordinator,
Children, Youth & Family Consortium,
which is part of the Extension Center for Family Development

You are welcome to comment on this blog post. We encourage civil discourse, including spirited disagreement. We will delete comments that contain profanity, pornography or hate speech--any remarks that attack or demean people because of their sex, race, ethnic group, etc.--as well as spam.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Tough choice? Youth voice!

Mark-Haugen.jpgChange presents adult coaches, mentors, club leaders and other youth educators with a chance to involve youth in the decision-making process. These opportunities arise all the time.

For example, every year thousands of young people compete in First Lego League, an annual challenge to design and build robots to solve a given problem. There is a different type of challenge every time and elaborate rules for participation. Among them are the equipment specifications -- software, sensors, programming. In January, First Lego League organizers announced the availability of a new robotic platform. More than 480 youth team leaders then faced the choice of whether to spend upwards of $500 to upgrade their equipment, and thus learn new software and skills, or use the equipment they already had and save precious team resources.

Would the benefits of upgrading outweigh the cost? Each adult leader faced this question. I wonder how many of the teams struggled with this decision and whether program leaders engaged youth in making it.

lego-boys.jpgThe benefits of developing strong youth decision-making skills are worth the investment. In The Leadership Challenge, Posner and Kouzes motivate leaders to teach this skill.
"By building...self-confidence, you are building their inner strength to plunge ahead in uncharted terrain, to make tough choices, to face opposition and the like because they believe in their skills and decision making abilities."

I saw the Lego league dilemma as a learning opportunity. Creating space and time to practice the skill of decision-making doesn't require an extraordinary talent, only a simple plan. In 4-H, youth learn about this when they join the The consumer decision-making project, which has a five-step process as a guide:
  1. Identify or define the situation or problem
  2. Determine possible options, choices or alternatives
  3. Evaluate the options, looking at the pros and cons of each choice based on the criterion: what is important to you?
  4. Choose one option and act on it
  5. Evaluate the decision - would you make the same decision again in a similar situation?

What do you think? When working with youth, how do you balance development of STEM-related skills and soft skills such as decision making? If you lead a FLL team, what decision did you make regarding the change in platform and how did you make it? I would especially love to hear stories of how youth were involved in the process.

-- Mark Haugen, Extension educator, regional 4-H youth development programs

You are welcome to comment on this blog post. We encourage civil discourse, including spirited disagreement. We will delete comments that contain profanity, pornography or hate speech--any remarks that attack or demean people because of their sex, race, ethnic group, etc.--as well as spam.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

How does out-of-school time foster social emotional learning?

margo-herman.jpgRecently, the Extension Center for Youth Development launched a three-year initiative to explore social emotional learning (SEL) and its role in positive youth development.

Colleagues of mine have blogged about the importance of SEL, the need to build understanding around common language and measures, and why the time is right to try and make a difference in how we think about, assess, and work to improve policy and practice.

This week, I ask you to think about the following important question: HOW do out-of-school time programs help youth acquire these skills?

A New York Times article on Sept. 11, 2013 "Can Emotional Intelligence Be Taught?" was the second most emailed article for the paper that day. The author states "noncognitive skills -- attributes like self-restraint, persistence and self-awareness -- might actually be better predictors of a person's life trajectory than standard academic measures".

Based on extensive research by the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), the model pictured here identifies interrelated competency clusters for social emotional learning that help us understand what skills we are talking about:
  • Self management - assessing one's feelings, interests, values and strengths
  • Self awareness - regulating one's emotions to handle stress and impulses
  • Social awareness - taking the perspective of and empathizing with others
  • Relationship skills - establishing and maintaining healthy and rewarding relationships
  • Responsible decision making - ethical, safe, respectful decision making within social norms
This CASEL research identifies specific stages of development of self concept and relationship skills through elementary, middle school and high school years.

This leads to the question of HOW youth learn and receive support for developing these important skills within families, schools and communities. In an article in this month's Kappan magazine, CASEL proposes two educational strategies:
  • Systematically teaching, modeling and facilitating the application of social and emotional competencies in ways that allow students to apply them as part of their daily behaviors,
  • Establishing safe, caring and highly engaging learning environments involving peer and family initiatives and schoolwide community building activities.
These two strategies have me thinking about how quality out-of-school time programs actually teach, model and support these competencies, particularly by providing safe, supportive, interactive and engaging environments for our youth. I am optimistic these two strategies may provide a springboard for us to consider as we move forward with the SEL initiative.

In a few weeks we have a unique opportunity to interact with Roger Weissberg, President and CEO of CASEL at our Oct. 30 symposium: Social and emotional learning: From research to strategies. He will help our symposium attendees grapple with these concepts and frameworks and spark further insights that may help us define strategies for Minnesota.

In what ways are you supporting this skill development in your current youth development efforts? Is it working? Who do you think is doing this work well that we should learn more about?

Margo Herman, Extension educator, educational design & development

You are welcome to comment on this blog post. We encourage civil discourse, including spirited disagreement. We will delete comments that contain profanity, pornography or hate speech--any remarks that attack or demean people because of their sex, race, ethnic group, etc.--as well as spam.
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