Friday, March 14, 2014

How we were fooled into thinking that sexual predators lurk everywhere

Social Media
Original Article

This is a very long article but worth the read.

Creating a moral panic about social media didn’t protect teens—it left them vulnerable

This article is taken from It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, written by danah boyd, Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, and published by Yale University Press.

(PDF) Fred and Aaron, white fifteen-year-old friends living in suburban Texas, are avid gamers. When we first met in 2007, their mothers were present. I asked about their participation on social network sites, and they explained that they didn’t use those sites but loved sites like Runescape, a fantasy game with customizable avatars. Their mothers nodded, acknowledging their familiarity with Runescape before interrupting their children’s narrative to express how unsafe social network sites were. Something about Fred and Aaron’s gritted nod in response left me wondering how these teens really felt about MySpace and Facebook—sites that were all the rage with their peer group at the time. Later, almost immediately after I sat with the boys alone to talk with them in-depth, they offered a different story.

Aaron explained that he was active on MySpace but that his mother didn’t know. Since many of his friends were using Facebook, he would have liked to create an account there, too, but his mother had an account on Facebook for work and he feared she would accidentally stumble onto his profile. Out of deference to his mother, Fred had yet to create an account on either site, but he was struggling to decide whether to keep abiding by his mother’s restrictions going forward. Fred told me that his parents forbade him from Facebook and MySpace after seeing “all the stuff on the news.” He said that his parents were afraid that “if I get on it, I’ll be assaulted.” Aaron chimed in to sarcastically remark, “He’ll meet in real life with a lonely forty-year-old man.” They both laughed at this idea.

Neither Fred nor Aaron believed that joining MySpace would make them vulnerable to sexual predators, but they were still concerned about upsetting their mothers. Both felt that their mothers’ fears were ill founded, but they also acknowledged that this fear was coming from a genuine place of concern. Although their demeanor was lighthearted, their discussion of their mothers’ fears was solemn: they worried that their mothers worried.


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