Researcher danah boyd on connecting with your digital kids
Parenting is hard. We’re reminded of this at every turn. It’s especially hard given the changing landscape for adolescence and the reality that our kids’ public lives are developing online as much as offline.
Writing for A Platform for Good, a project of the Family Online Safety Institute that brings parents, teens, and teachers together, researcher danah boyd points out that we’re simply facing many of the same challenges that our own parents had to consider while raising resilient, socially conscious kids. We just happen to let the technology get in the way of our understanding. As boyd puts it:
Hanging out online is a lot like socializing in any other public space. Youth may be there to socialize with their peers, but teachers and other adults may also be present. What makes the Internet especially tricky is that youth leave traces that may be viewed by people at a different time. As a girl, my mother taught me that I needed to put my best foot forward whenever I was in public. For today's youth, that public is the Internet. In order to help youth navigate networked spaces, parents need to talk with their children about unexpected and invisible audiences. How might what you write be interpreted by someone other than your friends? What happens when what you say is taken out of context? Rather than focusing on what's right and wrong, it's important to begin a conversation about what it means to engage publicly in a networked society.
In addition to talking about online safety issues and “Public-ness” with your kids, she recommends conversations that address how the birds and the bees play out online, and how qualities of empathy can moderate cyberbullying and other online attacks. She continues:
The networked society that we live in today may feel radically different, but many youth are struggling with the things they've always struggled with. They're trying to figure out who they are and how they fit into the bigger world. They want to hang out with friends, but they're also trying to figure out the status games of their peers. All of this is playing out through social media. Parents are in a unique position to help young people navigate this networked world, but they need not fear the technology. Instead, parents should start having key conversations with their children to help them develop strategies for coming of age in a networked world.
Dr. boyd is no stranger to this conversation. Her work—and that of her colleagues—has influenced our understanding of kids’ online behaviors and shaped our thoughts on education for some time now. It won’t hurt to let her shape yours.