It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens

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9780300199000: It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens

An essential read, written by a leading expert, for anyone who wants to understand young people's use of social media

What is new about how teenagers communicate through services such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram? Do social media affect the quality of teens’ lives? In this eye-opening book, youth culture and technology expert danah boyd uncovers some of the major myths regarding teens' use of social media. She explores tropes about identity, privacy, safety, danger, and bullying. Ultimately, boyd argues that society fails young people when paternalism and protectionism hinder teenagers’ ability to become informed, thoughtful, and engaged citizens through their online interactions. Yet despite an environment of rampant fear-mongering, boyd finds that teens often find ways to engage and to develop a sense of identity.

Boyd’s conclusions are essential reading not only for parents, teachers, and others who work with teens but also for anyone interested in the impact of emerging technologies on society, culture, and commerce in years to come. Offering insights gleaned from more than a decade of original fieldwork interviewing teenagers across the United States, boyd concludes reassuringly that the kids are all right. At the same time, she acknowledges that coming to terms with life in a networked era is not easy or obvious. In a technologically mediated world, life is bound to be complicated.

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From the Author:

How are teenagers’ lives different today?
 
The most visible difference is, of course, technology. Many of today's youth have access to tools that allow them to connect to people and information in unprecedented ways. Yet this is not actually the most salient difference between now and the past. Teens today are also more heavily constrained in their mobility, more regulated in terms of their time and activities, and under more pressure than those from previous generations. This means that they have fewer opportunities to socialize in unstructured, face-to-face settings. Technology often serves as a relief valve, allowing teens to hang out with friends when getting together isn't otherwise possible.
 
What most surprised you from your interviews of teens?
 
Given the plethora of concerns about social media, I expected to see problems everywhere. I was most surprised to find that most teens had a perfectly healthy relationship with technology and that many of the struggles they faced were age-old issues made more visible through social media. I found that the newness of technology distracted many well-intended adults from helping young people with the challenges they do face.
 
What topics dominate society’s conversations about youth? How would you change the focus?
 
Most conversations that focus on teens' use of social media—and their lives more generally—center on the risks youth face. While it's important to protect youth from dangers, a society based on fear-mongering is not healthy. Let's instead talk about how we can help youth be passionate, engaged, constructive members of society rather than how we can protect them from statistically anomalous dangers. Let's understand those teens who are truly at risk; these teens often have the least support.

Praise for It's Complicated:

"danah boyd is one of the smartest people thinking about how teenagers use the Internet—a topic of enormous importance to parents, me included. Her book is smart, sophisticated, and imbued throughout with a rare and wonderful sensitivity to the real, lived experiences of teenagers. Read it to understand what they're doing online, and why—you'll come away enlightened!"—Emily Bazelon, author of Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy

About the Author:

danah boyd is Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, Research Assistant Professor at New York University, and Fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. She lives in New York City.

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