Growing up high tech: Middle school students discuss how their world is different

FINKSBURG -- They prefer sending text messages to dialing phone numbers.

They use smart phones for Web surfing, communicating and gaming.


They are wary of social networking, prefer e-books instead of text books and are cognizant that excellent time management is essential in their active lives.

They are middle school students coming of age in the digital era.


They live in a high-tech world. It's complicated. It's hectic.It's full of touch screens, WiFi Internet connections, iPods, iPads and iPhones.

Six Gerstell Academy middle school students shared with the

Times what their day-to-day routines are like. They take advantage of the technology around them, but it doesn't define them.

"People think we are on the Internet all the time," eighth grader Peyton Freudigman said. "We're not. Sometimes, we're on there for homework and not just talking to our friends and playing games."

They are not always plugged into technology, a misconception they resent.

"It's hard for [other generations] to understand the stuff that we have," seventh-grader A.J. Schwartz said. "We were born with it, and we've kind of adapted to it."

The world they are growing up in is different than in past generations. Here's a look at six essential tools to previous generations that the Gerstell Academy students rarely, if ever, use.

Compact discs/CD players

Their role: The music industry is still releasing albums on compact discs, but the middle school students at Gerstell aren't using them often. If they do turn to them, it is simply to transfer music from CD to computer-based music storage programs like Apple's iTunes. And they aren't using CD players.

What they are using instead: Students are downloading music instead and listening to it on devices like Apple's iPod Touch or on their cellphones. When they download, they typically download individual songs instead of entire albums.

Social networking

The current role: The Gerstell students aren't using social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. At least not yet. Users must be ages 13 and older to use Facebook, but the students weren't especially eager to join when they were able. Eighth grader Vince Reilly said Facebook has potential negative consequences. "It's really easy to get into trouble with Facebook too," he said. "Say you are in high school and you have multiple colleges looking at you and your profile. If they see something bad on Facebook, they can say you're not going to that college."

What they are using instead: They are connecting directly with friends, either via text message or Face Time, an Apple application that allows direct face-to-face communication.

Traditional single-player video games

The current role: Students are still utilizing gaming systems like Microsoft's xBox 360 and Sony's PlayStation 3. But they aren't playing like previous generations do. Rather than trying to beat villains like King Koopa of Super Mario Bros. fame by themselves, they are teaming up to play online.

What they are using instead: The students preferred the Xbox 360 for online gaming options. Several of the students are currently enthralled with Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. But they also use their smart phones to play games that can be downloaded and played using their finger on a touchscreen. "I think there are a wide variety of options," seventh grader A.J. Schwartz said. "We just use whatever is closest."


Their current role: Print encyclopedias continue to be readily available at libraries for research projects, but students are rarely turning to them. Dictionaries are still around, but spell checks and online dictionaries have made them more irrelevant.

What they are using instead: Research is being done online, where information can be found on media, government and history websites. There are restrictions, of course. Gerstell students are advised to stay away from Wikipedia, an online information resource where any user can add information to pages for just about every topic imaginable.

Print/digital cameras

Their current role: Film continues to be phased out with digital cameras becoming increasingly popular with all users.

What they are using instead: Students have excellent cameras on their cellphones that they can use for photos with friends. They make lugging around a digital camera nonessential.


Traditional land line phones

Their current use: Granted, half of the students lived in homes where landlines exist. A few of the students remembered having to use dial-up modems via land lines to access the Internet. But they have enjoyed high-speed Internet availability for nearly their entire lives.

What they are using instead: All six Gerstell students had cellphones they received from their parents. IPhones were the most popular brand. They used those phones to communicate, leaving the traditional land lines behind. They enjoy using Face Time, an Apple application that allows users to speak face-to-face. Freudigman has a BlackBerry phone. She can't use Facetime on that. But she can still use it. "Well, I can use an iPad," she said, referring to yet another Apple device popular with youths.

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