Young people sometimes see the future more clearly than adults. And often they know what they’ll need to get there.

-Mario Morino

While the subject of technology and young people may conjure up the image of a teen multitasking with a cell phone, computer, and video game console, it is important to remember that the printing press and books were also technological innovations. Digital and cell phone technologies are an integral part of young people's lives in the 21st century, but we should never forget that technology is merely a tool. These tools should not be ignored by libraries. These tools are finding their way into the lives of kids and teens more often, and youths are using technology and media more than ever before. A study performed by the Kaiser Family Foundation in 2010 found that young people between the ages of 8 and 18 use media, on average, for approximately 7.5 hours per day (Rideout, Foehr, & Roberts, 2010). As noted in the same study, five years before, in 2005, young people in this age range used media on average for 6.5 hours per day. See the chart below for a visual representation of the data concerning heavy technology use. Please note that television and music/audio usage alone is responsible for the vast majority of time spent using technology.

Data from Rideout, Foehr, & Roberts, 2010

Another study conducted by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center titled "Zero to Eight: Children's Media Use in America 2013" shows that "among families with children age 8 and under, there has been a five-fold increase in ownership of tablet devices such as iPads, from 8% of all families in 2011 to 40% in 2013," (Joan Ganz Cooney Center, 9). They are increasingly used not only for communication and entertainment, but for education and developing job skills. Embracing technology that is popular with youth enables libraries to become more relevant to their lives, and reach young people who may not normally visit a library or realize what it offers.

As librarians, we have the challenging task of maintaining a balanced perspective regarding technology, and awareness of which tools will be the most beneficial to our young patrons. We must neither underestimate the importance of popular technology, nor overestimate it. Ultimately, we must know our communities to best judge what fits our specific mix of young patrons and caregivers. While we hope this page will be helpful, the most enlightening information about this topic will emerge from the conversations you have with your patrons.

Technology by generation

Babies, Infants, and Toddlers (ages 0-6)

While babies, infants, and toddlers are grouped together into one section, it must be noted that development during this age range is rapidly and continually changing. In other words, while a technology-related activity might be very beneficial for a 4-6 year old, this is not necessary true for an infant under the age of 2.

Photo from clover_1 photostream, Flickr.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under 2 should not watch television or spend time in front of screens (Kaiser 2003, p. 5). Children benefit most from interacting with others during this developmental stage when the brain is developing most rapidly (American Academy of Pediatrics, n.d.). However, the reality for most infants is very different, and many spend time watching television. A 2003 study called “Zero to 6: Electronic Media in the Lives of Infants, Toddlers and Preschoolers” revealed that most children are exposed to technology very young and use it regularly before they turn 6. Around 68% of children under two use “screen media” (TV, computers, video games) for about 2 hours on a daily basis (Kaiser, 5).

This moderately-high percentage can be contributed from the fact that parents often use television as a means to pacify or reward their children; in American culture, television viewing has been considered a "safe" activity in terms of relaxation (Rideout & Hamel, 2006, p. 4). As is stated in a Kaiser Family Foundation study from 2006, parents themselves use television as a method to unwind, and activities such as watching television or playing video games are seen as a family bonding activities of sorts (Rideout & Hamel, p. 5). Children who are not exposed to television are definitely in the minority; 2/3 of children live in households where the TV is on at least half the time, and a 1/3 live in households where it is on nearly all the time (Kaiser 2003, 12). Yet, while the study reveals that children are actively using media, like turning on the television, they are still very influenced by their family's habits and will use less technology if the opportunities to do so are not there (Kaiser 2003, 13). A 2009 article published by the Pediatrics journal determined that screen time for children under 5 was neither beneficial nor harmful.

In fact, the Kaiser Family Foundation from 2003 also found that most parents view their childrens’ media consumption as educational and beneficial, which manifests in the popularity of infant DVDs like Baby Einstein, and this is supported by research to some extent (p. 12). Research from a 2006 Kaiser Family Foundation study explained that children between the ages of 4-6 benefit from "well-designed educational programs, such as Sesame Street" and also from television shows that promote kindness and sharing (Rideout & Hamel, p. 4).

To compare this information from the 2003 and 2006 studies, there is a 2013 study on the same topic of media use from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center. It should be highlighted that the newer study focused on children 0-8 years old, while the previous studies focused on six months to six years. This 2013 study reveals new information that 38% of children under 2 had experienced using a mobile device for media. The total percentage of the children 0-8 that had ever used a device like a smartphone or tablet was at 72%, and time spent using other modes of screen viewing media, such as television, video games, DVDs, and computers has decreased over the last two years. For television specifically, “nearly six out of 10 children (58%) watch TV at least once a day,” (Joan Ganz Cooney Center, 10). Only 17% of the children use a mobile device on a daily basis though. The study finds that television is still the most used device in children’s lives. The study is valuable in the fact that it offers up statistics on the newer devices in children’s lives – the smartphone and the tablet.

Children (ages 6 to 12)

Children are active users of technology as is indicated by the data published by the Kaiser Family Foundation in 2010. They watch TV, listen to music, play video games, and use the Internet. Though they may be comfortable using the Internet and using Google, studies show that they tend not to be efficient searchers and often prefer to browsing to searching (Druin et al., 2009). Druin et al. also noted that when children search, they often have trouble typing and spelling words correctly since they are continually looking between the keyboard and the screen; unfortunately, they often do not utilize functions like auto-correct. Therefore, children need information literacy skills and education about the Internet to avoid experiencing frustration. Such education will inform children about Internet privacy and give them greater sense of judgment about what and whom to trust online. Rebecca Shiels curated a useful web site to assist librarians and educators with instilling information literacy skills within children.

Abbas (2009) suggested that digital libraries serve as alternatives to search engines to assist children with searching for information online. Information available through digital libraries would be age-appropriate and subject-specific to the children's needs. It would also eliminate millions of search results and, in turn, the stress experienced as a result of information overload. As of the present moment, however, little research has been performed in this area, and few digital libraries for children are well known. Some useful digital libraries for youth include: The International Children's Digital Library, the Internet Public Library (for kids), and the Internet Public Library (for teens).

Children are also vulnerable Internet users who benefit most from education, rather than solely on Internet filters (ALA, "Libraries, Children"). Many school districts and organizations prohibit particular web sites depending upon the site's content, so children will be very likely to come into the library to be able to access information that may be blocked by these filters, which might be preventing access to informative sites like YouTube or health information (such as for a report on breast cancer; the word "breast" is often prohibited by filters). Twenty four states have passed online filtering laws to prevent access to sexually explicit materials (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2013). The Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), passed by Congress in 2000, also prevents access to explicit materials. Please visit this web site for more information about CIPA.

The Association for Library Service to Children has a "Statement of Commitment to Excellence in Library Service to Children in a Technological Age" on their website, approved in 2000. This statement, though over a decade old, is apt at affirming the ways for librarians to meet the needs of children when it comes to technology: providing collections and services, teaching children and parents together about internet searches, respecting the rights of parents to determine appropriate content for their children, developing technology policies that meet the needs of a variety of children (see also Special Needs Youth).

Tweens and Teens (ages 12 to 18)


Tweens and teens use a wide range of technology in their daily lives. The results from the Pew Internet "Teens and Technology 2013" study indicate just how much teens ages 12-18 use technology. The technology available today for teens and tweens to spend their time on includes smartphones, tablets, computers, and video games. What they can do with these devices is endless. Firstly, it reports that 95% of teens are online. For many of these teenagers, their cell phone is their main internet point of access – 37% of them have a smartphone now, up from 23% in 2011. The study also found that “93% of teens have a computer or have access to one,” (Pew Internet, 5). Furthermore, 23% of teens have a tablet computer.

Libraries can engage young adults by staying up-to-date on technological innovations and by creating programs centering around the types of technology that their patrons enjoy using. Doing so will not only bring teens into the library; such activities will also enable them to connect with other teens and learn about other forms of technology. The American Library Association (ALA) has seen this need to entice tech savvy youths and has started a national initiative to educate teens in technology in the form of a yearly Teen Tech Week. The purpose of this program is to educate young adults to become competent and ethical users of technology, especially the technologies that are offered at their local library. The 2011 Teen Tech Week was celebrated at over 1200 libraries across the country. The theme of 2012 as voted on by over 62% of teens was Geek Out @ your library, and was held March 4-10. The theme for 2013 was Check In @ your library and was March 10-16. The theme of DIY @ your library will be for 2014, the week of March 9-15.

A library can use many different forms of technology that their patrons are using to create year-round programs. The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) has created a handout listing program ideas using technology. Some common forms of technology that can be used when creating programs or library resources are:
  • Virtual Worlds- "Allows opportunities for collaborations, exploration, and role-playing in a simulated environment" (Virtual Worlds). This technology can be useful in building developmental assets and communities through social networking.
  • Gaming- Although gaming can include table-top games, electronic games consisting of console and online gaming have become very popular with today's youth. Creating programming around gaming can allow libraries to stay relevant in teens' lives. It is also a great way to initiate outreach to the library's local community.
  • Podcasting- Podcasts can be used to empower and involve teens. They can be created by teens to share their opinions regarding personal interests.
  • Video book reviews - Involve teens in your collection development by recording video book reviews, then uploading them to YouTube.
  • Blogs, Wikis and RSS- All three of these are Web 2.0 tools that can be used to engage tweens and teens in technology. Libraries can use these tools to market programs to their patrons but they can also be used by teens to create projects and reviews. A list of useful sites to create these tools can be found here.
  • Text-message based services- The ALA's Social Networking report states that "the average “mobile teen” in the United States now sends or receives an astonishing average of 2,899 text messages per month, compared to 191 calls." Libraries have harnessed that power for good by using the Text a Librarian mobile reference service in 800 public and academic libraries. Twitter can also be used via text message, if the patrons set up their phones correctly.

Social Networks

Youth are the most prolific users of social networking sites (SNS), and the youth of today are the first generation to grow up entirely surrounded by social networking and media, thus coloring their social skills and methods of social interaction. Social media are among the most vital of Web 2.0 services, and they are heralding the transition into a new era of how youth interact with one another. In short, social networks are Web 2.0 par excellence, when framed in Tim O’Rilley’s definition of Web 2.0 as sites that: “(a) rely on the participation of mass groups of users rather than centrally controlled content providers, (b) aggregate and remix content from multiple sources, and (c) more intensely network users and content together.” Professor June Ahn remarks regarding the originality of the format that “…three features—profiles, friends, traversing friend lists—represent the core, defining characteristics of SNS” (2011).

Despite the fact that teens interact socially, learn new skills, and develop relationships via social networking, many teachers, parents, and librarians have been critical of the role of this rising technology in the lives of youth. Many raise questions about social networks ranging from their possible negative impact on academic achievement to stunting their ability to interact in an ‘authentic’ (i.e., offline) social capacity. Ahn and others suggest that for youth building an online presence is significant in the lives of a much more tech-oriented youth. Outlets like Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Tumblr and the like are, many researchers argue, analogous to the parking lots and shopping malls of old. Studies show that the use of social networks such as Facebook is considerably less risky and susceptible to sexual solicitation or harassment than chat rooms (Ahn, 2011, Livingsone and Blake, 2010). Nonetheless there are still real concerns about the role of technology in the lives of youth, see the 'Challenges' section below.

Despite adult criticisms scholars affirm that the growing trend of social media represents a new skill and method of participating in the world (Ahn, 2011). Denying youth their right to express themselves online may indeed have a negative impact on their technological literacy as well as their ability to socially interact in the future.

Libraries can take advantage of social networks by maintaining an active presence on them. Facebook is the most common website used by libraries. The Social Networking section of the State of America's Libraries Report 2012 included results of a survey of a variety of libraries. The survey, which used data collected in 2011, found that 88.8% of respondents used Facebook, with Twitter trailing behind at a mere 45.8%. Blogs were used by 44.2% of libraries. As one respondent to the 2010 edition of the same survey said, these tools "are only as effective as the user" and will not do any good if used only sporadically or inconsistently. A comment from a respondent in the 2012 Social Networking report pointed out that many school libraries prohibit the use of Web 2.0 tools due to their content filters. "It is unfortunate because these tools could really help promote our library and learning."

Learning with Online Videos

Search engines such as Google and video websites like YouTube, Vimeo, and Dailymotion have made online video content easily accessible for youth internet users today. Many kids view online videos for entertainment but online videos have many other uses. More recently teachers have been integrating Internet video creation and viewing in their classrooms. Videos are created by instructors, students, or other members of the online community and can be used to teach students about any number of topics found in a classroom, library, or other educational setting. According to the authors Dreon, Kerper, and Landis "music and humor are standard elements of popular online videos" (2011, p. 2). They discuss how one math teacher is creating his own online instructional videos and uses both of these elements to encourage a better understanding of math. The authors also describe seven elements to digital storytelling that are important to creating a video that youth will enjoy. They are: "point of view, dramatic question, emotional content, gift of your voice, power of the soundtrack, economy, and pacing" (p. 2).

Rodesiler, an English Language Arts teacher, shows popular and current music videos that help with "introducing literary terms, examining social commentary, and prompting student writing" (2009, p.48). YouTube videos are usually short so they are easy to show in class says author Akaqi (2008). The main determination in whether or not to show a video is to know if a video is "age and content appropriate" and if it adds valuable information to a lesson (para 14). Akaqi also says that "humorous videos may be used to reduce anxiety" in regards to embarrassing health questions (para 15).

Teaching through online videos is a smart way to reach youth that might otherwise not be interested in a class discussion. Music and humor attract youth and they may learn something without feeling a sense of boredom or pressure to do so that they might otherwise feel with traditional methods of instruction. Online videos also give youth with access to the Internet the ability to watch instructional videos at any time of day and for as long as they wish. They can pause lectures and come back later, a major advantage that an in-person lecture might not have. If videos are used in the classroom they provide a break from typical lectures and give youth an opportunity to learn in a different way. It may also be easier for teens to learn by example through these videos.

One of the best reasons for teaching youth through instructional online videos may be that young kids and teens are already using this medium regularly. Author Chau highlights this fact by discussing the following findings: "Teens between fifteen and nineteen years old account for 17 percent of YouTube's market" and teenagers visit YouTube to "be entertained (79 percent), pass time (71 percent), watch videos (61 percent), see what others are talking about (56 percent), and follow up recommendations from friends (53 percent)" (2010, p.66). It is logical to bring education to wherever youth may be visiting rather than by expecting them to adapt to traditional teaching methods alone. Since they are avid Internet viewers and video watchers it is only natural to use online videos as a teaching tool.

Some negative consequences of YouTube and other online video services are that some young users would spend more time online and less time doing other things, such as sports or other hobbies. Youth may also become distracted by videos unrelated to their lesson topic. Authors Dreon, Kerper, and Landis caution that web-instruction may work for some but may limit learning experiences for others, such as students without internet access (2011). Another risk is that teens or younger kids may see a video online and be inspired to replicate what they saw, such as a dangerous stunt, as O'Neill cautions in his 2012 article. In the article O’Neill explains why this may happen; "The area of your brain that seeks pleasure and reward is well-developed" as a teen but the "prefrontal cortex" in charge of judgment is not well-developed (para 17).


In the most literal sense, gaming can offer school and public librarians unique opportunities to create educational experiences and teach useful library lessons. In many cases, school and public librarians can offer creative and differentiated learning experiences without having to adhere to the regimented standards of classroom education. Gaming is a wonderful avenue for this. “Using technology is like breathing for many students,” said Khalida Mashriqi, a school librarian with an enthusiasm for gaming (2011). Why not create fun activities that are based in the technology skills that so many children and teens possess? While funding may prove to be an issue, as many still do not automatically see the value of gaming in libraries and schools, librarians and educators should embrace this new frontier and apply for grants and funding to provide adolescents with a safe and well equipped environment to learn and grow through gaming (Mashriqi, 2011).

Another problem with integrating gaming into library settings is the misconception that gaming fosters isolation from which players do not gain important skills or experiences with others. This misconception is far from the reality of the popularity and social nature of gaming. Over 42 million Americans play Internet games regularly and consider themselves “gamers.” Delneo (2005) describes gaming as “inherently social” and as an avenue for productive and collaborative opportunities with others who share one’s interests and skill set. While many pick up gaming as a hobby when they are younger, studies show that the act is becoming a life-long source of recreation and even professional skill building. Libraries often have the resources but not the rules conducive to fostering the use of gaming as an avenue for creative and educational growth and expression (Delneo, 2005). Along the avenue of skill building, the University of Rochester conducted a study and "discovered that playing action video games trains people to make the right decisions faster," (2010). It contends that playing video games can lead to an improved variety of every day skills, such as driving or reading small print.

While all school and public libraries may not possess the technology or physical space to accommodate gaming groups, many of today’s libraries are expanding their technology and attempting to accommodate the digital and virtual needs of young patrons. For example, a public library may have a cluster of computers open to the public that would be perfect for a small group of teenagers to use to game together. However, the library staff and their policies might not allow talking or Internet gaming at their computer stations. Teens are often discouraged from congregating socially at libraries for fear of too much noise and disrupting other patrons. Libraries must try to accommodate this patron group so as to keep up with the most current desires of their young adult population and their technology needs, or else risk being viewed as an unwelcoming and negative environment for young people (Delneo, 2005).

When embraced and properly funded, gaming can offer exciting programming opportunities for libraries. When given the opportunity to socialize, young adult gamers can share their strategies and problem solving experiences with one another. Gaming is meant to be social and constructively challenging and competitive. Including a gaming program at your library can offer young people a chance to expand their tech-savvy skill set and benefit from collaborating with others to solve virtual problems that could carry over into real life. A group of high schools in New Jersey combined forces to offer students the Gaming Club, at which students could use the existing facilities and bring their own gaming equipment. Students were offered the chance to have fun, learn, and even relax through gaming in a controlled setting. Branches of the Austin, TX Public Libraries combined forces with a video game designer and gave their young people the resources to create their own video games with appropriate software and supported their creative ideas for each game’s functionality and graphic design (Delneo, 2005). Librarians should not shy away from gaming when trying to meet the increasingly complex and social technology needs of children and teens, but rather embrace the exciting new opportunities to offer young people chances to game in an environment conducive to learning and creativity.

Mobile Devices

Mobile devices are any technological devices that are movable. Usually, cell phones or smart phones are the first devices that come to mind; however, devices such as global position systems (GPS), tablets, video cameras, e-readers, calculators, or handheld video game consoles are also considered mobile devices.

Rogers and Price (2009) discussed the usage of mobile devices in relation to four core developments for youth: 1) physical exercise games, 2) participatory simulations, 3) field trips, and 4) content creation. Children and young adults are already familiar with using these devices outside of school, particularly with taking digital photographs, uploading them online, and putting comments and tags on them, so this technological usage can also be expanded for educational purposes. Such purposes are not limited to one, single, immovable space either, for children can move around in physical environments while overlapping into digital spaces.

  • Physical exercise games
    • FloorMath and SmartStep, games that visually represent numbers on a surface or visual map. Children have to physically play hop scotch to compete and win at the games. Treasure Map, a game in which students run around in groups to gather clues to solve a mystery. GPS tracking devices lead the players to the next clue until the mystery is solved.
    • The Nintendo Wii

  • Participatory simulations, "game[s] in which sensory-based devices are worn or carried by children to enact a complex phenomenon. . . each child plays the role of an element at ground level that they can then view at bird's eye level to see how their individual contribution affects the whole system"
    • Thinking Tags, a game in which children wore a device that theoretically "gave" them an eye color. The children had to pair up with partners and determine what color eyes their offspring would have.
    • RoomQuake, a device in a classroom would go off and indicate the sound and reading of a theoretical earthquake. Students, based on the data, would then create physical models of what scale the earthquake was on.
    • Savannah, in which each child imagined that he or she was a lioness who had to feed on other animal. GPS-based devices would indicate the location of theoretical prey and include information about the physical appearance and size of the animal as well as the location where it can be usually found in the wild

  • Field trips
    • Using probing tools or applications to collect information about the environment, such as the level of exhaust fumes omitted by the school bus in the morning in a particular area. This data would be uploaded to a database, and the user would be able to compare pollution levels from multiple geographical areas.
    • In places such as museums, portable devices are used to give more information about an exhibit or location, either in a visual or auditory form.
    • QR codes being read through smartphones

  • Content creation
    • Using tools on portable devices to create, edit, and upload content to social media sites, such as YouTube, Twitter, or Facebook
    • Keeping this data organized can be difficult, however, if multiple devices are being used. ButterflyNet is a site specifically for students to upload content, capture data, leave comments, and take detailed notes.

How Librarians can Utilize Mobile Devices and Apps

Since teens tend to be heavy smartphone users, library staff and librarians can cater to this group by making library resources easily accessible by making mobile versions of library home pages and web sites. Dresselhaus and Shrode (2012), in surveying over 3,000 students at Utah State University, found that 54 percent of the students use their mobile phones for academic purposes. Therefore, libraries can utilize applications and services to reach more students. A text-based system in library catalogs, similar to the University of Illinois's "text-a-call-number" system could make physical items easily located. Additionally, Kosturski and Skornia (2011) suggested that a "text-a-librarian" service might be ideal for quick reference interviews. Smartphones are also becoming to be seen as futuristic library cards, as was suggested by Rich (2011), in an article which featured a public library system in Catawba County, North Carolina, that allowed patrons to place holds on books and renewed items through a smartphone app.

Of course, youth service librarians can encourage their patrons to use apps, such as Foursquare or Gowalla, to check-in at the library. Children and teens who check-in most often can receive prizes.

E-Readers and E-Reading

An e-reader is any mobile electronic device capable of displaying text, such as an e-book. Within the last few years, e-readers have become a popular item in many households. Reading from a screen has become commonplace and this impacts both libraries and how they serve the youth of today. A study completed by Scholastic (2013) shows that the percentage of youth who have read e-books has doubled since 2010. While children prefer reading printed material rather than digital books, that preference is slowly declining according to the Scholastic study. Fifty-eight percent of youth ages 9-17 said they would always want to read printed material even when e-books are accessible. This indicates a decline compared to sixty-six percent of youth preferring print material in 2010. The study shows that children are drawn to both print and digital books; however, e-books provide an opportunity to encourage and motivate boys and reluctant readers. The study shows that one out of four boys who has read an e-book is now reading more books for fun. Also, 50% of children said they would read more books for fun if they had better access to e-books.

Among the different youth age groups, teens are the least enthusiastic on giving up their physical books for e-books. In one-on-one interviews with a librarian, teens said some of the pros to having an e-reader are fast downloads of books, technological benefits such as not needing a bookmark, being able to highlight and take notes, and being able to fit many books onto one small device. Most issues teens noted with e-readers had to do with the experience of reading. They enjoyed the ability to hold the book and flip through the pages. Teens even liked the smell of books and missed that experience while reading an e-book. They also did not like the fragility of e-readers. Getting a book wet is no big deal but getting an e-reader wet can ruin the entire device. The teens interviewed enjoyed both printed and digital books but were more attached to their physical books for sentimental reasons. This may change with the coming generations who grow up with e-readers (Diorio, 2012).

Librarians should take notice of e-readers and digital reading because it is an increasingly popular topic. When young patrons and their parents come with questions about e-reading, librarians want to have answers and the ability to give advice and suggestions. Some librarians are already seeing the opportunities offered by e-reading and have started programs that involve their teens and digital books. These librarians are hosting virtual book discussion groups for teens. Reading apps like Copia and Inkling make it possible for teens and librarians to interact with each other while reading an e-book. Both the teens and the librarian can highlight and make notes as they read. All those who are participating can see these interactions as they happen and respond to those notes and highlights. Participants are able to have a discussion from within their digital copy of the book without needing to meet face to face (Braun, 2011). By embracing the benefits offered by e-readers and e-books, librarians can engage youth in new and exciting ways.


Internet Filter Regulations

A challenge that libraries face with youth and technology is internet filter regulations. Although the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requires libraries to filter their internet, it can only enforce such regulations on libraries that receive specific federal funding. "The American Library Association (ALA) does not endorse using internet filters in libraries, because they block access to information that is legal and useful" (Libraries, Children & the Internet). The use of filters can give parents a false sense of security because employing them does not mean that children are fully protected while on the Internet. Relying on a filter to protect children instead of discussing protective internet measures with youth can be hazardous. As the ALA says, "Filters do not protect children, education does".

Internet Bandwidth Speed

Another challenge with technology in the library can be from the limitations of the internet bandwidth speed. Allowing youths to play online action games and stream music and video can use up a library's bandwidth and slow down internet usage for other library patrons. Library regulations can be set-up to combat this limitation or more bandwidth can be purchased. Because library budgets are tight to begin with, increasing the bandwidth might not be an option, so library computer use might need to limited to shorter periods of time.

Internet Safety

Additionally, young people face the challenge of Internet safety. To discuss the issue of Internet safety and privacy, the example of Facebook can be used. Facebook has the rule that to become a member, one must be 13 years or older. If a kid under 13 wanted on Facebook they could simply mark their birthdate as older on the Facebook signup. Consumer Reports tells that in 2010, “Among young users, more than 5 million were 10 and under, and their accounts were largely unsupervised by their parents,” (Consumer Reports). This is a startling number, if one thinks about how these kids are even able to access the Internet. For these kids accessing Facebook underage without parental help, they may not have a good idea of how to make their information and profile private. These children may not be fully protecting themselves from strangers and bullies. Consumer Reports also found that “one million children were harassed, threatened, or subjected to other forms of cyberbullying on the site in the past year,” (Consumer Reports). It is truly important in these technological times that parents pay attention to the sites their young kids go to and help keep them safe on the Internet.


Cyberbullying is a recurring theme in discussion about youth and technology. As stated previously cyber-bullying should be a chief concern among librarians who often act as gatekeepers to technological expression (Eleanor Jo Rodger, et al.). Many high-profile cases have made this the chief area of concern for parents, teachers, and youth services librarians. As a result of these cases many states have enacted various laws in an attempt to prevent cyberbullying, often with specific rules required of school and public libraries. Cyber-bulling has a host of negative effects on youth, ranging from low self-esteem or reduced academic performance. There are also a few tragic instances of severe and sustained cyberbullying cases which “…have even been linked to increased incidence of adolescent suicide” (Agosto, Forte, and Magee, 2012). While exact figures on the issue are difficult to come by, it is safe to say that many youth who frequent social networks or use technology in their daily lives will come into contact with cyberbullying. Offline tendencies are often reflective of online trends, as at-risk teens that are already vulnerable to bulling in the offline world are, more often than not, the main targets of cyberbullying.

Technology educator Nancy Willard defines cyberbullying as “…being cruel to others by sending or posting harmful material or engaging in other forms of social aggression using the Internet or other digital technologies.” Additionally, she notes that cyberbullying falls into eight categories: flaming, harassment, denigration, impersonation, outing, trickery, exclusion, and cyberstalking. There are many ways that youth librarians can help tackle this issue, be it by hosting formal workshops or informal discussions with patrons (Agosto, Forte, and Magee, 2012).

Six tips for youth of any age are suggested to help reduce cyberbullying from Agosto, Forte, and Magee:
  1. That threatening messages, images, videos, and other materials posted online as jokes or games can become dangerous or damaging to others.
  2. Never to share their account passwords with anyone other than their parents or guardians.
  3. To limit the amount of personal information they post online.
  4. To periodically review their privacy and safety settings on their social network sites, cell phone, and other social media accounts, generally choosing the most restrictive settings.
  5. How to take appropriate action if they witness threatening behaviors online.
  6. About the importance of reporting cyberbullying attacks to appropriate adults.

There are also a number of Internet sites that address the issues and how to deal with them, such as Stop Cyberbullying,, and StaySafeOnline.

Texting and Sexting

75 percent of all teens text, and these teens are sending out, on average, 60 text messages to their peers each day (Lenhart, 2012). While texting is a good method for teens to communicate with one another, there are many risks association with this distracting behavior, particularly when moving about or driving a vehicle. The Federal Communication Commission warns against texting and driving, explaining that 40 percent of teens said that they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put them in danger. Research from the Virginia Tech Transportation Authority found that "text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted" (Federal Communication Commission).

Sexting is sending explicit, inappropriate, sexual material (texts or photos) via mobile phones. Like text messages that are viewed as spam, sexting can become an issue if children and teens are sending or receiving such content from specified or unspecified sources. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), 20 percent of teenagers in 2010 sent naked or semi-nude pictures of themselves via phone or posted them online (Bowker & Sullivan, 2010). The most tragic result of this endeavor can lead to suicide out of public humiliation. Other cases might lead to a jail sentence for breaking the law.

The Digital Divide

Unfortunately, not all children and teens will have equitable access to technological devices. Walter (2009) illustrates the issue of the digital divide, which has been caused by "disparities caused by income gaps" (p. 972). She noted that 96% of children between the ages of 7-17 live in households with incomes over $75,000 have computer access, while only 45% of children between the ages of 7-17 who live in households with incomes less than $15,000 do (p. 972). Similar factors hold true in regards to Internet access, smartphone ownership, and tablet/e-reader ownership.

Even though libraries provide access to computers and the Internet, some youths might not be able to take advantage of online resources or phone apps if they do not own the necessary device. This could possibly lead to youths feeling inadequate compared to their peers because of the societal pressure of conformity at these ages.

Intellectual Freedom

In libraries and schools across the globe librarians serve on the front-line of guarding the rights of youth so that they may have free access to information. Free access in this instance means both in terms of cost as well as intellectually. Professor Annette Lamb remarks that “Well-designed social technology such as blogs, wikis, forums, and other collaborative learning spaces can create a dynamic, safe online learning community where lively conversations about issues and reflective problem-solving can take place” (Lamb, 2007). In addition, the 2011 Rapporteur report for the UN has described the Internet as “…an indispensable tool for realizing a range of human rights, combating inequality, and accelerating development and human progress.” See the Intellectual Freedom page of this Wiki for more information.



ALSC's Internet and Technology resources

//Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives//, by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser.
Basic Books, 2008.

Berkman Center for Youth and Society: Youth and Media


Embracing Digital Youth: Public Libraries Internet Safety in a Web 2.0 World

Generation M2 Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds

The Media Family: Electronic Media in the Lives of Infants, Toddlers, Preschoolers, and their Lives

National Crime Prevention Council - Cyberbullying Page

Teens and Technology 2013

Teen Tech Week

Teens, Smartphones & Texting

YALSA's 30 Positive Uses of Social Networking

YALSA's Social Media for Teens Handout

Zero to Eight: Children's Media Use in America 2013

Zero to Six: Electronic Media in the Lives of Infants, Toddlers and Preschoolers


Abbas, J. (2009). Children and information technology. Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, 930-941. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from

Agosto, D. E., Forte, A., & Magee, R. (2012). Cyberbullying and Teens What YA Librarians Can Do to Help. Young Adult Library Services, 10(2), 38-43.

Akaqi, C. (2008, January-February). YouTube? For health education? American Journal of Health Education, 38(1), 58. Retrieved November 30, 2013 from|A175110154&v=2.1&u=uiuc_uc&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w

American Academy of Pediatrics. (n.d.) Media and children. Retrieved December 1, 2013, from

“Blogs, Wikis and RSS”. YALSA Wiki.,_Wikis,_and_RSS. (Accessed November 26, 2011).

Bowker, A., & Sullivan, M. (2010). Sexting: Risky actions and overreactions. Retrieved December 2, 2013, from

Braun, L. (2011). Now is the time: E-books, teens, and libraries. Young Adult Library Services. 27-30

“Challenges and Concerns”. YALSA Wiki. (Accessed November 26, 2011).

Chau, C. (2010). YouTube as a participatory culture. New Directions for Youth Development, 128. Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Retrieved November 30, 2013 from

D'Elia, G., Abbas, J., Bishop, K., Jacobs, D., & Rodger, E. (2007). The impact of youth's use of the internet on their use of the public library. Journal of the American Society for Information Science & Technology, 58(14), 2180-2196. doi:10.1002/asi.20675

Delneo, C. (2005). Gaming For Tech-Savvy Teens. Young Adult Library Services, 3(3), 34-38.

Diorio, G. (2012). Actually reading an actual book: E-readers and teens. VOYA.

Dreon, O., Kerper, R.M., & Landis, J. (2011, May). Digital Storytelling: A tool for teaching and learning in the YouTube Generation. Middle School Journal, 42(5), 4-9. Retrieved November 30, 2013 from

Dresselhaus, A., & Shrode, F. (2012). Mobile technologies & academics: Do students use mobile technologies in their academic lives and are librarians ready to meet this challenge? Information Technology & Libraries, 31(2), 82-101. Retrieved December 1, 2013, from

Druin, A., Foss, E., Hatley L., Golub, E., Guha, M.L., Fails, J., & Hutchinson, H. (2009). How children search the Internet with keyword interfaces. Retrieved December 1, 2013, from

Federal Communication Commission. (n.d.). The dangers of texting while driving. Retrieved December 2, 2013, from

“Gaming”. YALSA Wiki. (Accessed November 26, 2011).

Good, K. & Sinek, S. (2013). New study on kids reading in the digital age: The number of kids reading ebooks has nearly doubled since 2010. Scholastic. Retrieved from:

"Zero to Eight: Children's Media Use in America 2013." Joan Ganz Cooney Center.

Kaiser Family Foundation. Zero to Six: Electronic Media in the Lives of Infants, Toddlers and Preschoolers.

Kosturski, K., & Skornia, F. (2011). Handheld libraries 101: Using mobile technologies in the academic library. Retrieved December 1, 2013, from

Lamb, A. & Johnson, L. (2011). Nurturing a new breed of reader: Five real-world issues. Teacher Librarian, 39(1), 56-63

Lenhart, A. (2012). Teens, smartphones, & texting. Retrieved December 2, 2013, from

“Libraries, Children & the Internet”. ALA Libraries and the Internet Toolkit. (Accessed November 26, 2011).

Livingstone, Sonia and Brake, David R. (2010) “On the Rapid Rise of Social Networking Sites: New Findings and Policy Implications,” Children & Society 24 : 75–83.

Mashriqi, K. (2011). Implementing Technology and Gaming Lessons in a School Library. Knowledge Quest, 40(1), 24-28.

Morino, Mario. (1997). The Impact of Technology on Youth in the 21st Century.

National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). (2013). Children and the internet: Laws relating to filtering, blocking and usage policies in schools and libraries. Retrieved December 1, 2013,

O'Neill, J. (2012, September). You trouble: It might be funny to watch some guy jump off his roof onto a trampoline. But some say "stunt videos" encourage teens to take dangerous risks--and should be banned. Scholastic Choices, 28(1), 20. Retrieved November 30, 2013 from|A310256042&v=2.1&u=uiuc_uc&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w&authCount=1

Rich, S. (2011). Smartphones replacing old-fashioned library cards. Retrieved December 1, 2013, from

Rideout, V. J., & Hamel, E. (2006). The media family: Electronic media in the lives of infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and their parents. Retrieved December 1, 2013, from

Rideout, V.J., Foehr, U.G., & Roberts, D.F. (2010). Generation m2: Media in the lives of 8- to 18-years-olds. Retrieved December 1, 2013, from

Rodesiler, L. (2009, July). Turn it on and turn it up: Incorporating music videos in the ELA classroom. The English Journal, 98(6), 45-48. National Council of Teachers of English. Retrieved November 3, 2013 from

Rogers, Y. & Price, S. (2009). Chapter 1: How mobile technologies are changing the way children learn. In A. Druin (Ed.), Mobile technology for children: Designing for interaction and learning (2-22). Retrieved December 1, 2013, from

State of America's Libraries Report 2012: Social Networking//. Rep. American Library Association, 9 Apr. 2012. Web. 30 Nov. 2012.

"Teens and Technology 2013." Pew Internet.

“Teens Choose Geek Out @ Your Library for 2012 Teen Tech Week Theme”. ALA News. (Accessed November 26, 2011).

“Teens Podcasting @ Your Library: A Getting Started Guide”. YALSA Wiki. (Accessed November 26, 2011).

"That Facebook Friend Might be 10 Years Old, and Other Troubling News." Consumer Reports. June 2011.

"Video Games Lead to Faster Decisions That Are No Less Accurate". University of Rochester. September 13, 2010.

“Virtual Worlds”. Tune In: Teen Tech Week 2008 @ your library. (Accessed November 26, 2011).

“Virtual Worlds: A Teen Tech Week Guide”. YALSA Wiki. (Accessed November 26, 2011).