It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, by Danah Boyd, was eye opening. Having not been a teenager for a while now, I have not taken the perspective of a teen for many years. The world I grew up in is quite different from the modern day teen experience.
In her book, Boyd talks about the lack of unsupervised time in public teens have with their friends. This was not the case when I was a teenager. I took the bus to and from school. Any day I could hangout with friends before heading home after the end of the school day. I remember the most important thing to me as a teen was to spend time with my friends. Not that this has changed, spending time with friends is still important to me. I admit, I have been one of those people to look down at teens for being overly engaged with their technology. At times, I have assumed that the technology is creating an antisocial generation. Thinking about it from the perspective Boyd points out, it is easy to see how teens are really using it to connect. Through her interviews with teens, Boyd concluded that it wasn’t the gadgets that teens are compelled by, but the friendships. They were using the technology and social media to connect with friends in ways that were not available to me as a teen. As a teen, I could go out with friends and be different places. My parents did not know my exact location at every moment of the day. I can see how the overscheduled lives of teens would seriously cut into down their time to be with friends. I can see how teens would turn to social media to be involved in their “networked publics”. I do the same thing to stay connected with my closest friends now that I moved away for work.
While attending a session with Kevin Honeycutt, he encouraged parents and educators to use the social media tools kids are using. His belief was that having kids online, in these spaces, was like having a playground unattended. I know most parents and educators in the area where I work are not using Twitter, while many of our children and students are. I have looked at the Twitter feeds of my current and former students and have at times been less than impressed. I tell my students to post as if everyone in the world is watching (parents, teachers, future employers, etc.) and that they will be judged by what they share and post. Is this fair though? As Boyd points out, students are taking context into account when they post. Is it their fault that we take it out of context and place our judgments upon them?
I am so glad this technology was not around when I was a kid. Could not imagine what I would have posted as a teenager. It scares me to think about it. People make mistakes. Kids and teens are expected to make mistakes. That is natural, they are learning after all. How easily mistakes can be recorded, shared and reshared is worrisome. How do we best as teachers advise students to navigate their networked lives? I do agree with Kevin Honeycutt that we should be using the tools the kids are using and be in those spaces. Not from the point of view as surveillance, but for general knowledge to relate better to our students. Some of them use social media in powerful ways that we can learn from. All will need our guidance to think more critically about how they use social media.
Boyd, D. (2014). It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from Amazon.ca