Technology and teens


“Who you are has become more important than what you know,” said Sam Meyers, the Technology Integrationist at Minnehaha Academy. Meyer said this to a group of seniors at Mayer Lutheran High School last Wednesday, April 24.

Sam Meyers is also a part time teacher teaching oceanography and engineering. As the tech integrationist he helps the faculty implement technology in effective ways he said.

Sam Meyers is the Technology Integrationist at Minnehaha Academy and speaks on digital citizenship a couple times a year.

“I’ve always been an early adopter and one to play around with tech, and figured out ways to use it,” Meyers said.

Meyers started attending conferences on technology when the school decided they wanted to go to ‘one to one’, which is when every student has an ipad in there hand.

“I would hear horror stories from schools that jumped right onto the one to one tech bandwagon and it went terrible because they didn’t consider the effects that technology would have in the hand of students,” Meyers said.

Meyers started to speak on digital citizenship two to three times a year. Last week he spoke to the students on digital citizenship and fake news or the ‘filter bubble’. According to Meyers, a filter bubble is the internet showing us what we want to see. This includes sponsored content from recent searches and filtered articles on social media.

Meyers is part of a series of speakers that the school puts on throughout the years for the students.

“This is one that kind of hit us, because if you go out into our halls right now every kid is sitting looking at their phone,” said the Executive Director at Mayer Lutheran, Joel Landskroener. “What are we doing, at least in an hour of their life, to give them some insight that they could be more responsible, more loving, more kind as they head through this.”

Students at Mayer Lutheran High School listen to Meyers speak on fake news.

Meyers opened his talk with what it means to be a good citizen.

“The definition of a good citizen is having good intellectual skills and participation skills,” he said.

These things are part of our character he said, another part of our character is our values.

“Our value system is what drives what we put out there,” he said. “The media exacerbates it (information), but doesn’t initially put it out there.”

Meyers has one formula for how to be a good digital citizen: to seek the truth, post the truth and to value others.

“My family tries to live the life of ‘it’s about other people, good communication occurs when you have a relationship with somebody else, when you can empathize for someone else” Meyers said. “So much of our online relationship does not do that.”

Meyers believes that the internet is designed to reduce empathy, it gives people a feeling of power and anonymity. He stressed to the students the implications the choices they make online can have.

Meyers says choices made, including what people choose to read, is assessed by how good it makes people feel.

Part of a person’s filter bubble is their confirmation bias according to Meyers. He said confirmation bias is when people expose themselves only to the information they agree with.

“Confirmation bias shields us from the facts,” he said.

Meyers said 80 percent of teenagers do not question the sources of their news.

“Young people are getting their news and what they believe on social media,” Meyers said. “It’s becoming an epidemic,” he added quoting Penn State Professor Shyam Sundar.

The things at young people are posting and resharing take over the mainstream news, according to Meyers.

Meyers said that empathy is being reduced because of how students receive this information.

“Recognize it’s happening and burst the bubble,” he said.

Meyers talked to the students for an hour, flooding them with examples and scenarios of reduced empathy, fake news and the best and worst ways to use the internet.

“I realize with a young population with the development of their brains and just where they’re at, it’s going to be really hard for this to sink in and internalize this,” Meyers said. “But if students can learn to take on these habits it can be beneficial.”

A few of these habits include things to think about when posting on social media. Meyers suggested the students think: “What emotional state am I in,”, “Would I show this to my parents,” Would I want my future kids to see this.”

“I hope students think twice before they click now,” Landskroener said. “But gosh, I wish I had heard Sam when I was in high school.”

Meyers got deeper with the kids too, encouraging them to look at the bigger picture. Reminding them that having a filter bubble can sometimes include judgement, self-righteousness and entitlement.

These things and social media as whole give people an inflated view of themselves according to Meyer.

“You’re living the lives people around you, the lives you think they want you to have,” he said. “Other people are not in charge of your happiness.”

He calls the awareness of these things, ‘taming the mammoth’. Though he knows, this isn’t an easy thing to do.

“I don’t envy the age you guys are in, you can’t escape this,” he said.

“As a high school, we have more and more challenges with relationships,” Landskroener said. “They don’t think through what Sam talked about.”

Meyers left the students with some serious thoughts.

“You need to fail and overcome through acceptance,” he said.

Meyers believes schools should allow students to fail more so they can overcome those challenges. He reminded students that what they say in the media and Netflix TV shows, usually isn’t real life. Meyers made the point that the media shows low performers and high performers, it doesn’t show how or what average people are do, where most people are.

He told students to look and ask themselves where their value is coming from, school, church, friends or bullies. He reminded them one last time to seek the truth, post the truth and value others.

“Value the relationship,” he said.