Sup, tweens? A radical lady named danah boyd has a new book called It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, which aims to demystify the totally gnarly ways in which millennials like us use Snapchat, Twitter, and Facestagram. Sweet.
AP: What do parents need to understand about the online lives of teens?
Boyd: They need to realize that young people are doing the same things online as we all did as kids in other places where we gathered with our friends. They’re hanging out. They’re messing around with each other. They’re socializing. They’re flirting. They’re gossiping. They’re joking around, and much of this is perfectly reasonable teen stuff. Some of it is problematic. Some of it is glorious.
Why do kids these days spend so much time online? Because adults won’t let us go anywhere else. Party foul!
But the kinds of places young people used to gather are no longer accessible for a variety of reasons. The first is a level of fear and anxiety that exists, the result of 24-7 news, where there’s a sense that there’s terrible things happening to kids everywhere. We’ve transferred all that fear and anxiety to their online lives, but to them it’s a release valve, to finally find a place where they can hang out. It’s not that they’re addicted to the technology. It’s that they want a place where their friends are.
And when teens are showing real signs of distress online, boyd aruges, their supervisors’ instinct shouldn’t be to cut off their internet access.
AP: You write that too many young people live genuinely high-risk lives, but you conclude that most of those risks do not originate with technology. Can you explain?
Boyd: There are young people who are living high-risk lives, period, end of story. They are being abused every day at home. There are young people who are struggling with poverty, with addiction, with mental health struggles. They make that visible online.
One of the challenges becomes how do we intervene to help them? Unfortunately what we tend to do is we try to make the Internet go away instead. We hope that if we make the visibility go away, the problem will go away. But that’s not true.
Technology: not such a bad thing after all, right? At least, certainly not the worst thing happening in most kids’ lives. But you and I already knew that. Because we’re tweens. Now excuse me while I kickflip on out of here. Later, gators! Peace up, A-town down.