It’s Complicated, by danah boyd

It’s Complicated: The social lives of networked teens, by danah boyd

I just did a power read through of this book in order to pass it on to a friend before spring break. Wow. It is right on with what our tech department is saying and so important for parents and educators to read!

My biggest takeaways:

  1. Kids are doing what they’ve always done, technology just makes it look different, BUT technology does afford new possibilities, so some things may actually be different.
  2. Adults need to be engaged in social media with kids, but not always/everywhere and not as stalkers/surveillance, and kids need more geographic freedom and free time.
  3. Social networks online mirror social networks in real life, which are generally drawn along racial and socioeconomic lines, but even moreso. If an independent school is truly interested in increasing the socioeconomic diversity of its student body, it’s going to have to engage in the conversations with students about social media, because that will play a huge part in whether new students can navigate, adapt, and feel accepted in the new school while still preserving their identity in their non school community.
  4. Context collapse.

Here are some important points/quotes that I pulled out:

p. 7 distinction between friend-based and content/interested based
p.10 teens and social media is all about participating in public life
p.13 “teens are generally more comfortable with – and tend to be less skeptical of – social media than adults…. what’s novel for teens is not the technology but the public life that it enables.”
p.21 limited geographic freedom, less free time
p.25 “when we as a society don’t like the outcomes of technology, what can we do to change the equation constructively, making sure that we take advantage of the features of social media while limiting potential abuse?”
p.28 “As a society, we often spend so much time worrying about young people that we fail to account for how our paternalism and protectionism hinders teens’ ability to become informed, thoughtful, and engaged adults…. I want to celebrate their creativity and endurance while also highlighting that their practices and experiences are not universal or uniformly positive.”
p.30 “The ability to understand how context, audience, and identity intersect is one of the central challenges people face in learning how to navigate social media.
p.40 “Because teens’ engagement with social media is tied to their broader peer groups, the norms that get reinforced online do not deviate much from the norms that exist in school.”
p. 50 “Even when teens have a coherent sense of what they deem to be appropriate in a particular setting, their friends and peers do not necessarily share their sense of decorum and norms. Resolving the networked nature of social contexts is complicated. The “solution” most frequently offered is that people should not try to engage in context – dependent impression management. Indeed, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, is quoted as having said, “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.” Teens to try to manage context collapses by segregating information often suffer when the information crosses boundaries.… What makes this especially tricky for teens is that people who hold power over them often believe that they have the right to look, judge, and share, even when their interpretations maybe constructed wholly out of context.”
—> This is important for adults as well as we begin to have social media footprints that could impact our job if contexts collapse.

p.51 “the teens who struggled the most with the challenges of collapsed contexts were those who were trying to make sense of their sexual identity or who otherwise saw themselves as outcasts in their community”

—> i.e. the kids who make the most “mistakes” in the view of adults are the ones who need the most support – NOT the most punishment
p. 53 “Teens are struggling to make sense of who they are and how they fit into society in an environment in which contacts are networking collapsed, audiences are invisible, and anything they say or do can easily be taken out of context. They are grappling with battles that adults face, but are doing so while under constant surveillance and without a firm grasp of who they are. In short, they’re navigating one heck of a cultural labyrinth.”
—> We (teachers/parents) NEED to be in this conversation with them.
p.56 “When teens – and, for that matter, most adults – seek privacy, they do so in relation to those who hold power over them.”
—> OES social media policy – if the school is perceived as trying to exert power over faculty and staff’s personal life, it will be received negatively. Just as with kids, we need to educate and explain about collapsed contexts and the persistence and searchability of digital tracks.
p. 61 Public by default, private through effort. Basically, kids don’t think about intentionally making their conversations private. They just have them, and they are public, but then they are careful about having private ones private.
p.74 “Surveillance is a mechanism by which powerful entities assert their power over less powerful individuals. When parents choose to hover, lurk, and attack, they implicitly try to regulate teens’ practices. Parents often engage in these acts out of love but fail to realize how surveillance is a form of oppression that limits teens’ ability to make independent choices.”
p.152 “Although new forms of drama find a home through social media, teens’ behaviors have not significantly changed. Social media has not radically altered the dynamics of bullying, but it has made these dynamics more visible to more people. We must use this visibility, not to justify increased punishment, but to help youth who are actually crying out for attention. Blaming technology or assuming that conflict will disappear if technology usage is minimized is naive. Recognizing where teens are at and why they engage in particular acts of meanness and cruelty is important to creating interventions that work.”
p.156 “the mere existence of new technology neither creates nor magically solves cultural problems. In fact, their construction typically reinforces existing social divisions.”
p.172 “In a technological era defined by social media, where information flows through networks and where people curate information for their peers, who you know shapes what you know. When social divisions get reinforced online, information inequities also get reproduced.”
p.172 “[Teens] also develop a sense of what’s normative by watching those who surround them.”
p. 173 “Not only are today’s teens reproducing social dynamos online, but they are also heavily discouraged from building new connections that would diversify their world views.”
p.180 “We live technologically mediated world. Being comfortable using technology is increasingly important for everyday activities: obtaining a well-paying job, managing medical care, engaging with government. Rather than assuming that youth have a innate technical skills, parents, educators, and policymakers must collectively work to support those who come from different backgrounds. Educators have an important role to play helping youth navigate networked publics and the information rich environment that the Internet supports. Familiarity with the latest gadgets or services is often less important than possessing the critical knowledge to engage productively with networked situations, including the ability to control how personal information flows and how to look for and interpret accessible information.
Most formal educational settings do not prioritize digital competency, in part because of the assumption that teens natively understand anything connected to technology and in part because existing educational assessments do not require this prioritization. Although youth are always learning as they navigate these systems, adults – including parents, educators and librarians – can support them further by helping turn their experience into knowledge.”
p.195 “When information flows through social networks and interaction shapes experience, who you know matters.”
p.198 “Both adults and youth need to develop media literacy and technological skills to be active participants in our information society. Learning is a lifelong process.”
p. 203 “[Teens] must contend with aspects of networked technologies that complicate the social dynamos in front of them. The issues of persistence, visibility, spreadability, and searchability … fundamentally affect their experiences in networked publics. They must negotiate invisible audiences and the collapsing of contexts. They must develop strategies for handling ongoing surveillance and attempts to undermine their agency when they seek to control social situations.”
p. 212 “Through social media, teens reveal their hopes and dreams, struggles and challenges. Not all youth are doing all right, just as not all adults are. Technology makes the struggles youth face visible, but it neither creates nor prevents harmful things from happening even if it can be a tool for both. It simply mirrors and magnifies many aspects of everyday life, good and bad.”
p.213 “Rather than resisting technology or fearing what might happen if youth embrace social media, adults should help youth develop the skills and perspective to productively navigate the complications brought about by living in networked publics. Collaboratively, adults and youth can help create a networked world that we all want to live in.”
(psst: If you want a pdf of the book, it’s free on her website!)

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