Teenagers Go On Twitter to Escape Old People Who Write Long Sentences
Danah Boyd's new book It's Complicated: the social lives of networked teens is a must read -- both for people with kids and people who just want to know what the hell is going on; Boyd extensively researched teen internet habits-- she interviewed teens around the country and also read numerous sociological works on the topic-- and her big ideas are tempered with lots of anecdotes, often in the voices of the teens she interviewed . . . and what Boyd feels these teens are saying is this: we want to hang out with our friends, and that's a lot harder to do than it once was-- as the world is overly circumscribed for our kind, and there is a lack of public spaces where we our welcome, and we have a difficult time transporting ourselves to the few places we are welcome, and no one wants to see a cluster of teenagers anywhere except a high school football game-- and when we're there, we put our phones away, unlike most of you adults-- but most of the time, the best, safest, most accessible, and most convenient place to hang out is on-line . . . and while we can usually monitor and handle what we are doing, it's difficult to hang out in a place where you can't see lurking adults, which is why we often switch forums to where our friends are and the adults are not-- and we are willing to repurpose any forum to suit our needs, which are often social, and we often forget that we are under adult surveillance when we are online, and yes, the same problems that crop up in the real world happen on-line: bullying, racism, misinterpretation, gossip, drama, but adults shouldn't intervene in this world unless they really know the actual context of what is going on, which is often difficult and encoded . . . but still, if adults use their window into the online public space with some subtlety, instead of to only to pry, then it might open up lines of communication which are otherwise often frozen during the teenage years, but the most important thing to remember is that after we do our compulsory day at school and then practice soccer, meet with the Key Club, finish our violin exercises, study for AP Bio, then we go online to be social, not anti-social, and so unless you think we are having problems in the real world, please let us alone in our online world . . . the book is a quick and relatively easy read, and it acknowledges that our networked lives are here to stay -- and neither utopian nor dystopian-- instead they reflect the society at large, and it is up to adults to help children navigate the digital world, even though it is complicated, and adults should not simply rely on the fact that kids are digital "natives," because oftentimes they are not, and need help in understanding the consequences and methods of life on the internet . . . and I'm going to really test Boyd's claims this week, as I'm going to photocopy several excerpts and see how the real flesh and blood teenagers in my senior classes react; I will keep you posted of the results.