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Thinking back on high school, no one wanted to be embarrassed in front of their friends. So why would we want to bring that on our children?
This week, the Family Online Safety Institute and Microsoft invited top researchers to talk about teens and social media. Turns out that kids tend their Facebook gardens very carefully. “There’s a delight in sharing yourself with others,” said Amanda Lenhart of the Pew Internet and American Life Project, but ”they have a specific audience in mind.”
To young Facebook users, the site is a vast public stage. Since they know their every move can be viewed by others, when depicting themselves “the choice is to exclude rather than include,” says danah boyd of Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. “There is a high level of encoding. They are going to public spaces to socialize, but they are trying to achieve privacy in a social context where they could never assume they have privacy.”
So, although many nouns, adjectives and explanation points may appear in their profiles, other information is deliberately left out. Teen users speak and behave according to shared mores, often using terms only their peers fully understand.
The last thing they need is for Mom to say something stupid or over-react to a comment which is no big deal to the target audience.
So how to does a parent attain peaceful coexistence on Facebook and other “networked publics”? Sanchez says the first step is to talk with your child–and accept gracefully if you’re asked to watch quietly from the wings.
Though it’s tempting to try to fit in with the younger crowd, Sanchez says we do our children a disservice if we act like one of the kids. As we saw in the last post, Lenhart’s research proves that kids look to parents for digital solace and advice. So we are most useful when we act our age and model sensible behavior—in and out of social networks.
Then again, maybe none of us should be on Facebook in the first place. Also this week, the New York Times hit a nerve with a story called “The Facebook Resisters.” Scan some of the hundreds of comments, then ask yourself (and comment here): Is being on Facebook worth it?