New Technologies, Old Hopes and Fears*

Written for the Post Oak Post (

There’s no shortage of fear mongering about technology and our young people. A quick search on Google News for “Instagram teen” reveals headlines such as “Akron teen robbed… by man he met on Instagram” and “Teen shot at party advertised on Instagram.” The message here is clear: “The sky is falling!! Snapchat/Facebook/Instagram are to blame!!”

Increasingly, our lives as adults are mediated by technology and it’s hard to imagine it being any different for our children. So, how can we get beyond the headlines and understand and, as parents, the role of technology in our children’s lives?

itscomplicatedIn “It’s Complicated”, scholar Danah Boyd presents the findings of 166 interviews conducted with teens from 2007 to 2010. Boyd goes to high school football games and into schools and homes and to better understand teenagers and technology today.  Her conclusion: teenagers today are motivated by the same things they were motivated by in previous generations– the desire to hang out and connect with their friends and to find their place in society.  Instead of connecting at the mall, teenagers connect on Instagram. Instead of spending hours talking on the phone, teengers text and Snapchat. While academic, I find Boyd’s writings on online privacy, bullying and safety accessible and highly credible, both thanks to her conversations with teenagers.

And in “A Teenager’s View on Social Media”, Andrew Watts shares the teen perspective on different social media sites from

  • Snapchat (“where we can really be ourselves while being attached to our social identity”) to
  • Facebook (like “an awkward family dinner party we can’t really leave”) to
  • Instagram (“by far the most used social media outlet for my age group”)

This piece is great for adults to gain an understanding of the role of each of these different social media services.

How to Read: Download a free PDF copy of “It’s Complicated” here: Also, Danah Boyd has some great interviews on YouTube, here’s one: For Andrew’s piece, just google the title.

* The title of this blog post is the title of one section of Danah Boyd’s book

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