It was approximately 11AM on a Wednesday, and the hallways of Denton High School were relatively quiet, as class was currently in session. I was meeting with my first interviewee, a 9th grade African American student, in one corner of the cafeteria. The cafeteria was large and sounded hollow when it was not filled with students, but it was the best place to meet at the time scheduled. The cafeteria walls were filled with colorful signs of various sizes for the upcoming Homecoming dance and Homecoming court, posters advertising student council elections, and photos of alumni through the years. The school reminded me of my own high school in many ways. While I waited for the student, I spotted an authoritative male walk by, who was likely the principal. I looked out the window and the sun was gloriously shining.
The student arrived at approximately 11:03 AM and was wearing dark jeans, Toms, and a red short-sleeve v-neck top with minimal jewelry. Her hair was in a ponytail and she had very little makeup on. The student responded with “sorry I’m late” and sat down. I noticed right away that she seemed very interested in what I had to say and in the interview process. She shared a bit of background about herself, such as being the youngest of four children with two older brothers and one older sister. Her parents were still married and she had a close-knit family. Once I dug deeper into the more complex questions, the student became more enthusiastic and excited regarding the subject matter. She confided in me that she is a social network guru, used Facebook and Twitter on a regular basis, but her newly found favorite was Instagram. The student maintained good grades in spite of her “obsession” with technology, as she put it. She was happy to share information and provided a detailed response to each and every question that was asked of her. The interview lasted approximately 20 minutes and when it was finished, she shook my hand as we both stood up and then left the cafeteria.
Summary: This field experience began and ended on a high note because the student participant was very interested in the subject matter and in some ways, was an ideal candidate for the study. Her behavior was appropriate and she was engaging and very enthusiastic the entire time. Her attention throughout the interview was much appreciated. In terms of Internet security, she was aware that posting to Twitter or Facebook could pose a potential risk; therefore, she tried to be careful with what she posted and allowed others to see. In addition, when prompted, she changed her required passwords, but left other passwords alone when it was not necessary to change them.
It was a rainy Friday afternoon at the local Starbucks at approximately 3:15 PM. I was scheduled to meet with a White 11th grade male at 3:20 PM. The cafe was abuzz with baristas filling drink orders and customers ordering a variety of coffees, teas, and pastries. I was at a table near the front of the cafe and had a good view of the entire store. The store was busy for this particular time of day but then I remembered that it was raining outside and many people probably wanted to get out of the rain and have a beverage instead. There was a variety of people in the store, from high school students to older adults, some by themselves at tables with laptop computers or iPads and others sitting in groups, and some texting or talking on their smartphones. The smell of coffee was rich in the air and the noise level was moderate. While I waited, I ordered a Grande Chai Tea Latte. Although the location was crowded, I was able to locate a small two-person table in the front left corner of the room in front of a big picture window. I looked outside at the parking lot and noticed many people with umbrellas and jackets because the temperature outside was on the chilly side. At 3:30, the student walked into the location and arrived for his interview. I recognized him immediately because we had met briefly in a prior setting. I called his name, he looked my way, came over to the table I was sitting at and shook my hand rather weakly. However, I barely heard him say hello to me as he sat down as his voice was very quiet. He did not make initial eye contact and appeared to be very shy and perhaps withdrawn. The student was wearing baggy black pants, black boots, a black t-shirt and had black spiky hair. Also, both of his ears were stretched and he wore several metal bracelets on his right wrist and a black watch on his left wrist. His skin color was pale. The student’s appearance was reminiscent of the gothic style in many ways. Once he appeared to be a little more comfortable with his surroundings, I began my interview. As I asked him the set of questions that I had prepared, I noticed that his responses were relatively brief (mostly one-word responses) and he did not provide a great deal of significant information to me that would be useful in the study that I was conducting. Also, his voice was very quiet and I had a difficult time understanding some of the things that he said. The coffee shop was loud so I had expected that he would speak loud enough so that I could hear him. His responses were also so brief that the interview lasted less than ten minutes, when I had planned for 30-40 minutes. Many of his responses were as simple as “yeah, sometimes” and “no.” The student’s lack of enthusiasm and his acknowledgement of his use of social networks were very relevant and they demonstrated clear apathy and lack of interest in the interview process and in the questions that were asked. Simply put, he looked very uncomfortable and did not look as if he wanted to be there. Although the interview subject and his responses did not help my objectives, it was nonetheless a learning experience. This circumstance sheds some light on the level of diversity that is observed in interview settings, including what works and what does not, particularly in public locations such as busy coffee shops. To say I was truly enlightened by this non-interview is accurate because I realized how different teenagers are in different cultures and in different environments. I had originally expected the student to provide me with important information for the study but I quickly realized that this student was not interested in what I had to say. It was unfortunate because he was recommended for the interview by one of his teachers who noted how bright he was and because of his great student record. To be honest, the entire interview was a letdown on many levels and did not provide any real data for my evaluation.
Summary: The male student that was interviewed was important to the study as a source of non-compliance and non-committal behavior, which may play a role in how social networks are perceived by other people. With this student, it appears that his lack of interest in the interview took precedence above the actual topic that I was addressing with the questions. Although the interview was unsuccessful, it did shed some light on how some students act and behave when they are required to perform a given task. Since the interview went very poorly, I did not get a real opportunity to ask him regarding his understanding of security, the passwords that he uses, and any limitations that he experiences with this process in his regular daily activities. This experience was helpful to me in shedding some light on how teenagers respond to adults and different forms of authority and the ability of younger people to have an impact in different types of research studies. It is clear that some students will have a significant impact, while others will be less than enthusiastic and provide no helpful feedback for the research. The student’s lack of enthusiasm is perhaps the most memorable component of this interview, rather than the data that was derived.
It was a cloudy Saturday morning and I was scheduled to meet with a senior Hispanic female at 11:30 AM. This interview was not conducted at the school because it was a weekend. Therefore, I decided to conduct the interview at a local McDonalds restaurant. Since it was lunchtime on a Saturday, the restaurant was very busy and noisy. I ordered a Diet Coke and an apple pie and sat down towards the front of the restaurant. I noticed that there were a number of families in the restaurant, as well as couples and individuals seated by themselves and also ordering at the front of the restaurant. Once I sat down, I looked around and also noticed that there was much chatter and discussion, most likely regarding a number of different topics. There were several small children in the restaurant, some of whom were quiet and others of whom were either talking loudly or yelling. One infant was screaming in her carrier, while a toddler ran around the restaurant and was essentially unsupervised. I became easily frustrated because when I witness this type of behavior. However, I realized that I had an important task to complete and refocused my efforts towards the interview that was to occur soon. At approximately 11:35 the student arrived at the restaurant through the side front door. I recognized her immediately because we had met once before and before I could get up and direct her to the table, she saw me and made her way over to the table and reintroduced herself. She was dressed in a pair of dark jeans, a grey ¾ sleeve top, and Converse sneakers. Her straight hair was down and she wore braces. She shook my hand and smiled at me and appeared to be open to the interview process from the very beginning. Immediately I could tell that this experience would be more positive than the last one I had with the withdrawn student at Starbucks. In contrast, this student was enthusiastic from the get go and seemed very interested in what I had to say from the very beginning of the conversation. She also thanked me for including her in my research and noted that she has a strong interest in research and in solving problems, perhaps by becoming a nurse in her future career path. The teenager asked me if she could order a beverage before we began and I agreed that this was fine. She walked up to the counter, placed her order, and returned to the table with her drink a few minutes later.
I began the interview by thanking her for her participation and made it clear that I was happy that she was able to join me on a busy Saturday, especially since she could have been at home or out with her friends. She shared that she had to work later on that evening at her job at a clothing store in the mall. During the interview, she opened up to me rather quickly and shared some personal information regarding her family, as she is an only child to a single mother. She performs well in school and enjoys her part-time job at the mall after school and on weekends, where she makes extra spending money and money to help her mother pay for her cell phone bill. With this third field experience, the student expressed that she was at an intermediate level with respect to social networking. She was aware of each network, used Facebook more frequently than Twitter and did not have an Instagram account. Her intermediate level of skill demonstrated that she was interested in social networking but had not taken the time that was necessary to familiarize herself with many of the applications that were available and how to use them safely and efficiently. Much of the reasoning behind this is that she simply did not have the time with her busy schedule to make an effort with social networking and to familiarize herself with the process as best as she could. She emphasized that she was very interested in social networking and wanted to learn the ins and outs because many of her friends were involved in the same practice. She thought that it might be easier to communicate with her friends and to be part of the communication chain by participating in social networking on a regular basis.
Summary: This student provided additional insight regarding a “middle of the road” approach to social networking. In the process of obtaining information regarding her networking preferences, I inquired regarding her level of knowledge of safety and security measures, and she did not appear to be comfortable with the topic. When asked about changing her passwords, she stated that she will change them “only when I have to.” This understanding of passwords demonstrates that her personal information may be at risk under some circumstances because it is not sufficiently protected against different types of risk. This was an important interview because I proposed that many students share similar views to this student and do not think about Internet security risks on a daily basis. Overall, this student appears to model other “typical” high school students and their general knowledge of Internet security. This participant provided greater insight regarding the overall knowledge of Internet security as she recognizes that secure information is serious business, but that she is not necessarily fully aware of what is required to accomplish these objectives in school and in the home environment.