Hi Folks! Here’s rydtedhfsf
a great profile of Danah Boyd, an Internet researcher who hops over hysteria to look at how young folk really use social media. I heard her speak at a Family Online Safety Institute conference, and, as the NY Times profile points out:
“She was the first to say that the teenagers at risk off line are the same ones who are at risk online,” said Alice Marwick, a postdoctoral researcher at Microsoft who works closely with Dr. Boyd. “It’s not that the Internet is doing something bad to these kids, it’s that these bad things are in kids’ lives and the Internet is just a component of that.”
This is something I try to remind parents about: The Interet is a lot like the real world. In fact, it IS the real world: It’s where kids hang out. Most hang out with their friends. But some kids, often the most troubled, go to where trouble congregates — chat rooms where strangers are talking about sex. It’s like kids going to the baddest part of town. Some will, but most kids just go to the mall.
And one of the main reasons they ARE gathering online, rather than at the mall or even — I know this sounds crazy — the PARK, is that:
“Children’s ability to roam has basically been destroyed,” Dr. Boyd said in her office at Microsoft, where a view of the Boston skyline is echoed in the towers of books on her shelves, desk and floor. “Letting your child out to bike around the neighborhood is seen as terrifying now, even though by all measures, life is safer for kids today.”
Children naturally congregate on social media sites for the relatively unsupervised conversations, flirtations, immature humor and social exchanges that are the normal stuff of teenage hanging-out, she said.
As for the fear that predators and bullies lurk everywhere on the Web, Boyd says there is no evidence that bullying is more prevalent on line than in the “real world,” nor is there any evidence that it is on the rise in either place! And predators?
“The most deadly misconception about American youth has been the sexual predator panic,” she said. “The model we have of the online sexual predator is this lurking man who reaches out on the Internet and grabs a kid. And there is no data that support that. The vast majority of sex crimes against kids involve someone that kid trusts, and it’s overwhelmingly family members.”
So basically, we have become afraid of our kids hanging out beyond the home, for fear of predators, bullies, sexual situations, etc. Meantime, we are afraid of our kids hanging out inside the home, on line, for fear of predators, bullies, sexual situations, etc. And it’s all part of the same thing: An unrealistically grim perception of anything our kids try to do on their own.
That’s why it’s so lovely to hear this honest-to-God, Harvard-sanctioned researcher point out: Things are far less ominous than we fear. Thank goodness. And thank Danah! — L.