Academy for Social-Emotional Learning in Schools




Buying on line.

Tweens/Teens and Technology: What You Need to Know What You Need to Do

by Michelle McCoy Barrett, Ph.D., College of Saint Elizabeth, Associate Professor and Director, Psy.D. in Counseling Psychology, Licensed Psychologist

Technology has made our lives easier, more efficient, and even more enjoyable. Socially, a new world has opened up allowing many to connect in ways that are no longer dependent on proximity. With all of these benefits, there comes a growing number of concerns, particularly for tweens/teens of Generation Z, the “Always on Generation” (born 2001-present).

Lack of Connection and Relatedness

Communication, although more frequent, can lack genuine meaning and connection when done primarily through text or social media outlets. Today’s tweens/tees may be less equipped to understand social cues and may hide behind technology to avoid genuine and meaningful interactions. Texting as a primary mode of communication lacks face-to-face interaction. How often are text messages misinterpreted because of a lack of eye-contact, tone of voice, and body language?

Can’t unplug or Disconnect

Many parents and educators worry about the amount of time tweens/teens spend online and on their phones. Some of the strongest research suggests that our sleep is being affected by technology, specifically cell phone use at nighttime. Phone notifications being on at night affects our sleep and this is especially problematic for tweens/teens. Concerns exist about attention spans, multi-screening, and the constant need to find out what others are doing, known as “Fear of Missing Out” (FOMO).

Consequences of Bad Decisions

Perhaps the most frightening concern has to do with the consequences of what kids put out there (e.g., hurtful words, inappropriate images). Emotional regulation and impulse control take on new meaning when one considers how quickly and widely messages can be broadcast. Developmentally, this age group struggles with things like planning, thinking ahead, and making good decisions. It can be a disastrous combination for this group to have instant access to an audience. In addition, there is often the false belief that once something is deleted, it disappears. Teens/tweens need to know that once something is out there, it stays out there!

Today’s parents have an additional job as soon as they allow their kids to enter the world of technology/social media. Often the issue of privacy is raised, however it’s crucial remember that what tweens/teens are doing online is PUBLIC. A diary is private, while a text or post is public. The time to set up monitoring is sooner rather than later, as it’s easier to set up rules with a 12-year-old versus a 16-year-old.

Social Emotional Learning

Given what today’s tweens/teens are facing, there is an increased need to focus on social and emotional learning in schools and at home. Developing an awareness of one’s own emotional state is crucial for healthy development and building relationships. This awareness also serves as the building blocks for understanding other people’s emotional states. With a decrease in face to face communication and an increase in electronic communication, there are fewer opportunities to develop that understanding of others and more room to make errors. Because texting has become the primary mode of communication for tweens/teens that have a phone, this generation may be lacking in social awareness and understanding and the need for these skills to be intentionally discussed and taught is tremendous.


  1. Charge phones at night in a charging station, not in a tween/teens’ bedroom.
  2. Model unplugging as parents.
  3. Be familiar with the types of technology that your kids use.
  4. Know passwords and monitor communications. Start off with this understanding.
  5. Discuss what you see. Mistakes will happen and can be important conversations; the key is to catch these early.


Weiss, R., Schneider, J. (2014). Closer together, further apart: The effect of technology and the internet on parenting, work, and relationships. Gentle Path Press: Arizona.

Weir, K., (2017). Disconnected. Monitor on Psychology, Vol 48, No. 3, APA: Washington DC.




Improving Your Parent-Outreach Strategy

Summary:  This article provides suggestions and strategies for communicating with parents.  Most of these communication methods use technology and cellphone apps, classroom blogs, and websites to keep parents in the loop, reduce your workload, and boost student engagement.

Source:  Jeff Knutson, Edutopia, August 23, 2017

Categories:  Parent Engagement, Technology, Positive Relationships, Student Achievement




Cyberbullying Challenges Mental Health in Our Schools

Summary:  This article, by guest writer J.M. Myers, addresses the challenge that cyber-bullying puts on the mental health of a school and its students. Schools must address cyber-bullying even though it usually occurs outside of school.  In many ways, it is much more pernicious  than face-to-face interactions.

Source:  Jill Berkowicz and Ann Myers, Education Week, May 24, 2017

Categories:  Anti-Bullying, Mental Health, Codes of Conduct, Technology




How a New Jersey High School Transformed to Stay Relevant for Students

Summary:  This is an article about New Milford High School (NJ) where Principal Eric Sheninger used technology among other methods to respond to student interests and needs.  The result was increased performance in all aspects of achievement.  This article also explains the “Future Ready Schools” Network and its framework for creating an innovative school culture.

Source:  Tara Garcia Mathewson, Education DIVE, November 15, 2016

Categories:  Technology, School Culture/Climate, Student Engagement



Cell Phone

Are Today’s Digital Natives Stunting Their Social Skills?

Summary:  This article reports on a new documentary, “Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age,” which explores the impact of how much time today’s students spend looking at their phones or other digital devices, alongside input from doctors, researchers and educators.

Source:  Tara Garcia Mathewson, Education DIVE, November 10. 2016

Categories:  SEL Basics, Technology, School Culture/Climate




Animated Videos Help Teachers Build Sense of Empathy in Students

Summary:  This article reports on the upcoming release of a set of animated videos which are designed to teach empathy.  The Empathy videos star Mojo, a friendly green animated monster, who became something of an internet star earlier this year in a series of online videos called “Growth Mindset.”

Source: Jane Meredith Adams, EdSource, September28, 2016

Categories:  Empathy, Mindset, Core Values, Technology



Study Group

True Engagement Not Dependent Upon Tech

Summary:  This article reports on comments from Eric Patnoudes of Ed Tech Magazine that student engagement needs to come before technology and technology should be used to enhance that engagement and their intrinsic desire to learn.

Source: Tara Garcia Mathewson, Education DIVE, July 22, 2016

Categories:  Student Engagement, Mindset, Technology



Student at Computer

Increase Social Connectedness Through Digital Peer Learning

Summary: This is an article sponsored by Canvas LMS touting a digital approach to peer tutoring, reciprocal teaching, and cooperative learning using technology while trying to maintain the feel of face-to-face interactions.

Source:  Canvas, Education DIVE, June 22, 2016

Categories:  SEL Basics, Technology, Student-Centered Learning



New Vision for Education: Fostering Social and Emotional Learning Through Technology

Summary:  This article provides a link to a research report from the World Economic Forum exploring how social-emotional learning can be supported by technology.  The report covers the importance of social-emotional skills in the workforce, the potential role of technology in advancing these skills, challenges to be overcome, and interviews with important stakeholders to determine the role that they might play in successful policy change.

Source:  World Economic Forum, March 10. 2016

Categories:  SEL Basics, SEL Research, Technology



Student at Computer

Play Nice! How to Promote Digital Inclusion and Stop Online Bullies

Summary: This article addresses both the positives and the negatives of the increased use of technology in the classroom.  With the many benefits of using technology comes the challenge of dealing with negative factors such as cyber-bullying.

Source: Marian Oswald, Edudemic, May 18, 2016

Categories: Anti-Bullying, Technology