It’s complicated by danah boyd

iQ was fortunate enough to hear internationally recognised social media researcher danah boyd speak back in 2012 (click here to access all of iQ’s resources on danah boyd). Now boyd has a book coming out entitled It’s complicated. The blurb from the book (via Amazon) explains what it’s about:

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.

This is not an advertisement for the book, just a pointer to a resource that many people may find useful. Public libraries may stock this book.

What are parents afraid of?

Last week internet researcher and expert danah boyd asked her followers “what they’re afraid of with their kids’ use of social media. (Note: this is a biased crowd.)”

Among the issues were:

  • privacy
  • safety
  • influence of outsiders
  • loss of control
  • being bullied or a bully

 

Rethinking privacy in an era of big data

Recently the New York Times published a piece on privacy in the era of big data. Asking questions such as:

  • who owns email correspondence between two people? (as someone who has accidentally found that a friend routinely forwards my private emails to others, this is a real issue.)
  • can we control the way we’re portrayed if other people post photos of us?
  • why should we have to make an effort to keep conversations private that were formerly private by default?
Social media researcher danah boys says
 “Regulation is coming,” she says. “You may not like it, you may close your eyes and hold your nose, but it is coming.”

The issue is what the regulation looks like, and how well it is considered. “Technologists need to re-engage with regulators,” she says. “We need to get to a model where we really understand usage.” Right now, even among the highest geek circles, “we have very low levels of computational literacy, data literacy, media literacy, and all of these are contributing to the fears.”

As always, laws need to play catch-up with what is happening in the world of technology and regulation could be some time coming.

Read the whole article here.

Young people and technology: fear and wellbeing

Recently, ABC Radio featured a session on the wellbeing on young people using technology.

We hear a lot about young people and technology but how much of what we know is based on actual research? In this program we speak to some of the leading researchers in the field. We examine the connection between young people, technology and wellbeing, and question whether some of our fears about kids and technology are actually valid.

Guests included:

             Dr danah boyd; Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research and Research Assistant Professor in Media, Culture and Communication              at New York University.
Dr Amanda Third: Senior Lecturer, School of Humanities and Communication Arts Institute for Culture and Society, University of Western Sydney. Research Program Co-Leader, Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre.
Associate Professor Jane Burns: CEO of the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre.
Makhala Swinson: Member of the Young and Well CRC Youth Brains Trust and Lifeline phone counsellor, Youth Ambassador, Photographer.
Maxine: Participant in the ‘Living Lab’ experiment.
Chris Pycroft: Participant in the ‘Living Lab’ experiment and member of the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre’s Youth Brains Trust.
             Nicole: Participant in the ‘Living Lab’ experiment.
Listen here. More information here.

How parents normalised teen password sharing – danah boyd

Social media and internet researcher danah boyd (featured on this blog in posts entitled Parental stalking online ‘unwise’ and Privacy in networked publics) has researched the teenage phenomenon of password sharing.

boyd says she has found the origins of password sharing, which is

The idea of teens sharing passwords didn’t come out of thin air. In fact, it was normalized by adults. And not just any adult. This practice is the product of parental online safety norms. In most households, it’s quite common for young children to give their parents their passwords. With elementary and middle school youth, this is often a practical matter: children lose their passwords pretty quickly. Furthermore, most parents reasonably believe that young children should be supervised online. As tweens turn into teens, the narrative shifts. Some parents continue to require passwords be forked over, using explanations like “because I’m your mother.” But many parents use the language of “trust” to explain why teens should share their passwords with them.

This is an important article for parents to read. Click here for the full text.

danah boyd – Privacy in Networked Publics

Last Thursday I was fortunate to attend a talk by internationally recognised social media researcher danah boyd. Here is a parallel post from my personal blog of what her thoughts are about teenagers, social media, privacy and being public. Her lack of panic about teenagers and social media reflects that of Wednesday’s post on Google’s ThinkB4U. See also yesterday’s post on danah’s thoughts re parents ‘stalking’ their children online.

I was one of a fortunate few who attended a stimulating and thought-provoking session by renowned social media researcher Dr danah boyd yesterday at RMIT. danah has done an enormous amount of research into how young adults view social media and she has conducted countless interviews with teenagers. The topic was how young adults view privacy in a world where everything seems to be public.

danah began by speaking about mythbusting privacy. How young people understand privacy is different to how we understood it when we were young as the world is totally different now. For teenagers, it’s essential to be part of the social world. In our day it was hanging out at the mall. Today, the equivalent is being on Facebook.

There is an expectation from all young adult to be participating in social media. If they are not, there must be a good reason not to be on it. They think, it’s free, so why not be on it?

Young adults are doing the things online we did offline when we were teenagers; making friends, hanging out. Awareness and presence drives participation. Teenagers are engaging in social grooming, learning social norms and how to conduct relationships and how friendships get formed in public places. Young peoples right to roam has been radically decreased in three generations. Constrained now locally. Parents want them within their sight. Social media use is a byproduct of this.

Young adults often see Facebook as a scrapbook of social life; a way of bringing bedroom culture (posters, media, etc) to an audience.

We are seeing an intersection of people, technology and practice, where people come together, restructured by technologies. Online expressions are automatically recorded and archived. It’s different to what were used to when we were teenagers.

The fact that online materials can be easily duplicated and not knowing whether something is original or a duplicate changes dynamics.

Searchability of teenagers is now great; visibility of content is great. Teenagers are now searchable by people who hold power over them (admissions officers, bosses, etc.)

Scalability. Even though huge audiences are out there, there are blogs that have 0 readers. Things that make them look like fools are the things that have scale. But not all audiences are visible. Not necessarily co-present. How do we navigate audiences when we don’t know who they are or when they are our audience? They might read a blog post written years ago.

Collapsed contexts: lack of boundaries makes it difficult to maintain distinct social contexts. Blurred. Young people are struggling to make sense of broader contexts as well. Peer norms and adult norms and very different.

Private and public are difficult to maintain as distinct. Sense if agency, make a decision and assert that decision. How do we control this?

There is a huge shift around information and who can access this information. Defaults have changed. We need to make a decision about what to share. Many teenagers are now sharing online public by default, private through effort. They find it easier to share everything than decide what to share. They feel other people can filter rather than them choosing what to share. They often upload all of their photos then select one or two to delete.

Young adults want to participate in a public choice of privacy in a public environment. But there is confusion about what constitutes privacy. Respect, personal, exhibitionists. Sharing is seen as a way of closeness, so sharing passwords is quite normal. Up to 50% older teens share passwords. This was generated by adults, parents wanting their children’s passwords. So sharing passwords is signalling trust to special friends and boyfriends/girlfriends. Cultural forces around trust and safety.

Who belongs and who doesn’t? Who should read and comment on a post? Some teenagers think just because a post is publicly accessible, doesn’t mean it’s for you. This means you parents and teachers (and other relatives).

Privacy strategies. How do you know if a Facebook status is meant to be addressed to you? Young adults say it’s a certain way you talk. One young adult created lists for suitable audiences as his interests were varied and he would be teased by some friends for some interests. So he separated those by using lists.

One young adult found that things she forgot about that occurred in the past were brought up. So she deleted posts and comments daily, after friends had time to read them. One girl deactivated her account daily so adults couldn’t see her updates.

Teenagers also feel that parents shouldn’t comment on Facebook posts as it scares everyone else away. So, often teenagers work around by hiding in plain sight. One example was a girl was feeling depressed, but as her mother was her Facebook friend, she couldn’t say she felt bad online or her mother would annoy her. So she posted the song lyrics from Always look on the bright side of life. The encoded message achieved privacy in a public environment. Her mother thought she was cheerful. Anyone who’d seen the Monty Python film knew she was upset.

Although danah has access to social media sites, she often doesn’t know what young adults are talking about due to the codes they use.

Dramatic actions online include teasing right through to harassment. We see bullying, kids see drama.

Shifts in visibility. Increased ability to see into lives of YA. They are seeing and being seen. You’re invisible unless you share and participate. This prompts them to share and be present. Young adults are now learning to expect surveillance. Parents, teachers, adults, governments are looking over their shoulder. Value of privacy still very important to YA but it’s achieved differently.

Young adults are now hacking the “attention economy”. They often think “what can I do to get attention?” Trolling is a part of this. They often feel that anybody who becomes famous becomes a target because they have visibility and the young adult may not. This has been normalised through reality tv.

Those who don’t want to or don’t have access to social media is about 7% of teenagers in USA. Religion is a good explanation for this. However, some young adults make a conscious decision to opt out. Opting out of Facebook has a few reasons. Parents is one reason. Some kids feel they don’t need to, they are already popular enough. Some feel so marginalised already, they don’t want to be marginalised online as well. Some feel they need a clean slate for a sports scholarship. Some people have an emotional exhaustion to Facebook updates; it feels like a job rather than fun.

Google+ Circles can be good not to overflow everybody or blow up your friends’ feeds.

Twitter is used in different ways. To participate with celebs. Participating in trending topics is fun. Strong third is protected accounts. Share updates with small group of trusted people. Quite clear who is following you.

 Young people feel they are oppressed as a group. There is no safe environment for queer youth online, they are not getting the support the way they were a decade ago. There have been suicides in the US after the “It gets better” campaign. But there was no structural support to the campaign.

The Internet magnifies everything. We see things that we didn’t see before. How do we make sense of it? Teenagers need to understand the world is messy. Things out there aren’t all good and we can’t protect them from it all.

Bullying statistics haven’t changed with rise of Internet. Bullying is worse at school. Adults panic because we can see kids being harmed. If kids don’t come home with a black eye, we don’t know what happened. Easier to blame technology.

 There is pressure for kids to only relate to people they know. Adults need to support shared interests. Marginalised youth want to share personal stuff. MMORPG seems to be a good place to share. Harder to find online communities.

Real names debate. We act differently at work, home, etc. so we could use different names for different aspects of our lives.

Note: danah changes quotes from YAs so they can’t be googled. No unintended visibility. Never connects journalists with young adults.

There are interest driven communities and friendship driven communities. But fear mongering in the media has made it impossible for young adults to join interest driven communities as there are ‘strangers’ on these sites.

Parenting is an ongoing process. We should be working on all of this long before they go on the internet. Trust and communication are the keys. Parents need to ask questions, such as “Why did you do this?”  ”Did you achieve what you wanted to achieve?”

How to we change the fear culture spread by the media? Statistics don’t combat fear. One story can make things spiral out of control. How do we challenge moral panic? We need media literacy.

Health and wellness is at the centre of all this. We need to teach critical thinking rather than dos and donts. We need to teach the possibilities about how to engage well.

danah also feels that educators should have a second Facebook account (without any private content) so that students can connect with their teachers if they have problems or issues. Accept their friend requests, but don’t friend them. Passwords can be shared with Principals for transparency. This would especially be important over long summer holidays when teachers are not available face to face.

A podcast of the session will be available shortly. For an in-depth blog post on the session, see Jenny Luca’s How do you deal with a world that is messy? danah boyd at RMIT.

Podcast of danah’s presentation available here.

The difference between Facebook and Twitter

danah boyd (she doesn’t use capitals), (who is a Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research, a Research Assistant Professor in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, a Visting Researcher at Harvard Law School, and an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of New South Wales) has written an interesting piece comparing the ways teenagers use Facebook and Twitter. Entitled Tweeting teens can handle public life, boyd says

Twitter gives its users two settings: make tweets readable to all, or only to a selected group. A surprising number of teens choose the latter, culling a carefully chosen collection of real-life friends and family members. Even for teens who keep their tweets public – like the overwhelming majority of adult users – Twitter seems smaller and more intimate than Facebook. In an age where virtually every young person has a Facebook account, many teens are “friends” with hundreds of classmates, as there’s heavy social pressure to accept friend requests from people they know. Twitter’s more casual approach to “following” means teens can choose to follow only their friends without too much recrimination. In North Carolina, 17-year-old Manu summarises this sentiment: “I guess Facebook is like yelling it out to a crowd, and then Twitter is just like talking in a room.”

To teens, Twitter and Facebook have different purposes. Matthew, another 17-year-old from North Carolina, told us: “On Facebook, if someone writes their emotions every five minutes, it’s just obnoxious.” Since it’s normal to have 600 friends, if one of them posts constant status updates, it potentially drowns out more important or interesting messages. Matthew and his friends call this “blowing up your news feed” and it’s looked down upon. But on Twitter, it’s perfectly OK to talk about the meal you just ate, or the moment-to-moment sadness you feel, because the site encourages such minutia – and you can always unfollow someone if they tweet too much.

Read the entire article here.