Capital High School in Washington is like almost every other high school in the country in that it's trying to strike the balance between giving students a fair freedom to use social networking devices, yet at the same time maintain attention and school customs throughout the day.
But while the rise of social networking has made it easier for people to stay connected, some worry that the need for up-to-the-minute updates is negatively impacting a younger generation's ability to mature socially and could be stunting academic growth, writes Kathryn Gregory at the Sunday Gazette Mail.
Clinton Giles, principal at Capital, said:
"I do understand and can appreciate the digital age we live in.
"We speak of young people now as being digital immigrants, as they have not lived at a time when there has not been all this technology."
However, he added:
"For every benefit, I have seen at least one negative, especially here in the school setting. You can say anything about anyone, anytime, anywhere and not fear any repercussions, except someone else might write something nasty about you."
While the school maintains a strict limit on cellphones – only allowing them to be used at lunch time and before and after the school day — some high school administrators think this much screen interaction could be negative.
A school counselor at Capital, Lisa Dorsey, said:
"The thing that I worry about is the addiction. I have children that I will be speaking to in my office, and they will have their phone in their pocket and when they hear that buzz â¦ you can tell that they are not even listening to you and they are only thinking about what's on the phone.
"They are so programmed to respond to that so quickly and to be âin the know' right now about what is going with their friends that they don't see the message as an interruption in communication.
"They don't see it as disrespectful, but it is. That has kind of changed our culture as far as what is appropriate in a face-to-face conversation. To have someone interrupt it, because it is by phone, it's acceptable."
This constant need to be connected will and does spill over into the classroom, she says.
"It's very hard for them to pay attention on what is going on in the classroom when they are focused on what is going on on that phone," she said.
"I think they are oblivious a lot of times and are missing out on daily activities because they are so focused on what is going on in that piece of technology."
Dorsey's concerns are not uncommon. A 2011 Cisco Connected World Technology Report found that many young people today experience a social life that is more about being connected rather than personal interaction.
The report was born out of surveys of nearly 3,000 college students and professionals 30 years old and younger in 14 countries. It found that 2 out of every 5 college students found the Internet, and social media, to be more important than dating or going out with friends.
Susan Young, assistant principal for curriculum and instruction at Capital, said:
"Last week at lunch, there was a full table of kids sitting there. Every single one of them had their cellphones out and none of them were talking to each other.
"I made a comment to [another teacher] and said, âLook at them. They're not talking.' All they are doing is texting and Facebooking. And they are probably texting each other."