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Marketplace

The online life of a teenager

Molly Wood Mar 27, 2014
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When conversation turns to teenagers and how they use technology, the narrative is usually focused on how teens are disconnected from the real world because of their reliance on smartphones and social media. danah boyd begins her new book, “It’s Complicated: the social lives of networked teens,” with an observation she made at a high school football game in Nashville: It was the parents, not their children, who were locked into their smart phones.

According to boyd, the ability to socialize on one’s own terms is what determines when one is keyed into technology, not age or tech savviness.

At an event like a football game, adults are generally there because of their children. At home, however, is when parents seek to be social and have family time, while teenagers turn to technology to find their friends online. 

“We see young people who are hurting, and they’re making that just as visible as young people who are doing really well. We blame the technology for making all this visible, rather than saying ‘Wow, I have a window into people’s lives. Can I step back? Can I appreciate? Can I figure out how to intervene in a productive manner?'”

boyd says many social media networks are being used by teenagers in the same way that teens have used any platform to express themselves. The difference is the transparency of posting it online for everyone to see.

According to boyd, this is an opportunity to reach out in a way that wasn’t available before.

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