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Dakota to explore the psychology of cyberspace

 
By Nicole Tuttle, Voice Reporter
Friday, November 16, 2012
 
Would teens rather tweet or text than talk? How does this affect their relationships with peers?
 
These questions and more are among those that will be discussed Nov. 28 and Jan. 23 at Dakota High School. The Macomb Township school will host free Family Night Out events to analyze the latest research on technology and teens in America and offer teens the opportunity to discuss how they view technology use.
 
Stephanie Lange, the school's student assistance specialist, said these two events will differ from family night discussions regarding technology that Dakota has hosted in the past.
 
"In the past we focused on digital citizenship, how to be a healthy and safe user of technology," Lange said. "This is more how technology shapes us as people."
 
On Nov. 28, Family Night Out will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and will focus on the latest research on technology and youth in America from a summer 2012 study. Lange and two Dakota students will offer a short presentation based on the research and then allow families to break into small groups for discussions.
 
“Students don’t realize that the things they post with social networking are preventing students from getting scholarships and professional jobs,” Lange said. “Professionals in our community have lost jobs due to social networking. It can help but there are also very significant consequences if you are not careful.”
 
Some people are paid simply to do research for large organizations and universities and can even locate information that people think they have deleted from places such as Facebook, said Lange.
 
Research by Common Sense Media done in the summer of 2012 will guide the Nov. 28 Family Night Out. The study covers topics such as social networking and social emotional well-being, but one of the most important things it has to offer is a series of questions regarding technology use that can start conversations between family members, according to Lange.
 
“We use Common Sense Media a lot to help parents make decisions about media. … It is a great website to help parents make smart decisions,” Lange said.
 
Dakota High School sophomore Lindsey LaForest, age 15, is one of the teens who will assist Lange in leading the Nov. 28 discussion.
 
“I have been in a coalition with Mrs. Lange,” LaForest said. “I have been working with her at school on various activities. We have a dialogue night every so often throughout the year. When I mentioned the meeting, what was really interesting was a lot of my friends want to get off of Twitter and Facebook. They are trying to get out of social networking, but some are more involved. It is controversial even with teens.”
 
LaForest said although many teens use social media to share events with friends or send out invitations, some are addicted to over-sharing aspects of their life.
 
“You have to be careful what you write if you hope to one day go to college,” LaForest said.
 
The Jan. 23, 2013, family night will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Dakota, but the focus will be more on what Dakota teens have to say about their digital lives.
 
“It was split so that we can see both sides of the coin – what the research says and what teens say,” Lange said. “There was too much to cover to do it in one night.”
 
The Jan. 23 event will include a teen panel and a technology addiction quiz.
 
Nicole Tuttle is a freelance reporter. She can be contacted at ntuttle.reporter@sbcglobal.net
 
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