Do you ever feel like you just can't connect with your mentee? Well, technology can be a great way to do so, especially when you can't see them every week, let alone every day. It can give your mentee the opportunity to connect with you when you're not there in person. And, let's face it. Our youth are more communicative on their public web profiles about what's going on in their lives than they are when you sit across from them and point blank ask them.
Now, I'm not saying that you should search through every bit of their profile to find out what's going on, but they may feel less threatened when you ask them a serious question online or through text. You can also leave on the note, "We can talk more about this when I see you on Thursday, okay?"
There are a lot of different things nowadays that teens and even pre-teens are using. If you aren't familiar with some of the ones listed below, feel free to ask your mentee for a walk through. You would be amazed and how much they know about each of the sites and the details that they understand. This could be a great opportunity for you to acknowledge what they know and even ask them if this is something they have ever considered as a career. There are jobs that pay you to be on social media sites and monitor them! They can even tell you what they don't like about the site(s) they use, and you can write a letter together to those who manage the sites and provide your feedback.
So here are just a few of the technology things of which I'm aware:
Digg <--social news
Users can post links to top news stories or "digg" (vote) them to the top.Mentor tip: Log on with them and check out the top stories. Sometimes they are truly bizarre and can start a great conversation.
iTunes <--music and other media download
Mentor tip: Look at the top downloads; they'll often be the most popular songs that are listened to by youth
Facebook <--social networking
Mentor tip: There is a "chat" option which allows you to instantly message anyone who is online. It's an online version of sending texts. This gives your mentee the opportunity to talk with you about anything at any time.
Flickr & Picasa <-- photo sharing
Mentor tip: Upload your pictures you take on your outings together and give your mentee the link so they can download your shared memories.MySpace <--social networking
Mentor tip: This is used more by junior high & high school students than Facebook, and sometimes even elementary students, even though you must be 13 or older to have a page.
Texting via phone
Most of you are familiar with this one at least, and if your mentee has their own cell phone, it's likely that they have sent texts to friends during your times together.
Mentor tip: text them a reminder about meeting up later for a Blenders.
Tumblr <-- blog or mini blogLike Twitter in that you can post quick thoughts, but also give you the chance to blog full stories and post pictures.
Twitter <--"mini blogging"
Mentor Tip: "Follow" your mentee to see their quick, one line thoughts. These are often impulsive so they give you a good view into what's going on.
YouTube <-- video sharing
Mentor tip: Ask your mentee to show you their favorite videos. They may not be entertaining for you, but it can give you an idea about what it is that they find entertaining.
Click Here for a more complete list of social media sites. There's everything from gaming sites to blogging to music sharing.
Now some of you may think that promoting use of techonology to communicate is a backwards step in your mentorship and promoting healthy communication skills, but the way I look at it is that if you open yourself up to communicating on their level, they will be more likely to communicate on a more professional level in the future. You can talk about the benefits and downfalls of each type of communication. Clearly, texting lingo is different from the language used in most professional settings, but it gets their message across to their friends in a way that they can relate, thus building their peer social skills. Don't worry; they'll get older and hopefully mature with their texts. And with phones like the iPhone, words often self-correct with Auto Correct. For example, "ive" would change to "I've". So have fun with it for a little while and see how it goes.