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Keeping Up with the Digital Generation: Practitioner Perspectives

Mat D. Duerden, Rachel Aaron, Kate Cromwell

Abstract


The current generation of youth is commonly identified as the digital generation. Their quick adoption of technology often leaves practitioners struggling to stay up to date with the rapidly changing technological landscape. Although the perceived technology gap may seem daunting, insights can often be drawn from pooling the collective knowledge and experience of fellow practitioners. The purpose of this study was to assess practitioners’ perspectives on the use of technology among youth and the incorporation of technology in out-of-school time programs. Practitioners completed a survey that addressed both their comfort level with technology as well as how it was addressed in their organization. Practitioners’ responses provided insight into both why and how technology is used within their organization and how youths’ use of technology is managed during programs. The findings from this study indicate that while practitioners recognize the existence of a technology knowledge gap between youth and adults, the majority of respondents have an overall positive attitude toward technology. While most respondents indicated technology was intentionally incorporated into their programming, their primary use of technology was for communication and information dissemination followed by educational enrichment and other specific program initiatives (e.g., community mapping). Practitioners also noted difficulties in trying to effectively manage the use of technology among youth during programs. Strategies to address this generally fell into one of three categories: no technology use allowed, limited use during down times, and privileged use according to adherence to certain guidelines. Although most practitioners reported an overall positive attitude toward technology, some did express fear that youths’ overreliance on technology may present a variety of negative outcomes including underdeveloped social skills. The increasing role of technology in youths’ lives has led some practitioners to focus more intentionally on face-to-face social opportunities for their participants. The study’s findings show that most practitioners believe technology can and should positively enhance youth programs. However, as noted by the authors, technology is one of many potential programming tools and should be employed intentionally to facilitate specific targeted outcomes rather than be utilized as a simple reaction to popular trends.

Keywords


Youth development; technology; programming

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