Readers — A bunch of you sent this in to me, including my own son, Morry, who said, “Hey Mom, have you seen this?” We are fans of Wired magazine here. Kudos to Clive Thompson, author of the new book Smarter Than You Think, for this piece:
Don’t Blame Social Media if Your Teen Is Unsocial. It’s Your Fault
by Clive Thompson
Are teenagers losing their social skills? Parents and pundits seem to think so. Teens spend so much time online, we’re told, that they’re no longer able to handle the messy, intimate task of hanging out face-to-face. “After school, my son is on Facebook with his friends. If it isn’t online, it isn’t real to him,” one mother recently told me in a panic. “Everything is virtual!”
Now, I’m not convinced this trend is real. I’ve read the evidence about the “narcissism epidemic” and the apparent decline in empathy in young people, and while it’s intriguing, it’s provisional. Lots of work offers the opposite conclusion, such as Pew surveys finding that kids who text the most also socialize the most in person. But for the sake of argument, let’s agree that we have a crisis., Let’s agree that kids aren’t spending enough time together mastering social skills. Who’s responsible? Has crafty Facebook, with its casino-like structure of algorithmic nudging, hypnotized our youth?
If kids can’t socialize, who should parents blame? Simple: They should blame themselves. This is the argument advanced in It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, by Microsoft researcher Danah Boyd. Boyd—full disclosure, a friend of mine—has spent a decade interviewing hundreds of teens about their online lives.
What she has found, over and over, is that teenagers would love to socialize face-to-face with their friends. But adult society won’t let them. “Teens aren’t addicted to social media. They’re addicted to each other,” Boyd says. “They’re not allowed to hang out the way you and I did, so they’ve moved it online.”
Read more here…