How kids use the net now, from danah boyd

Teen net-researcher danah boyd (@zephoria) has been taking parental questions about teens' use of the net on Twitter and here are her responses:
@mirroredpool: What borders to teens place of social networking sites and education? How would they react to using an SNS to do class work?

@annejonas: i'm curious if they want schools involved in social networks or if they like it as a social space outside the realm of formal edu.

This is messy. Many teens have ZERO interest in interacting with teachers on social network sites, but there are also quite a few who are interested in interacting with SOME teachers there. Still, this is primarily a social space and their interactions with teachers are primarily to get more general advice and help. In some ways, its biggest asset in the classroom is the way in which its not a classroom tool and not loaded this way. Given that teens don't Friend all of their classmates, there are major issues in terms of using this for groupwork because of boundary issues.

@shcdean: What future do they see for FB or Twitter.

They don't use Twitter. When asked, teens always say that they'll use their preferred social network site (or social media service) FOREVER as a sign of their passion for it now. If they expect that they'll "grow out of it", it's a sign that the service is waning among that group at this very moment. So they're not a good predictor of their own future usage.

@lazygal: Do they really care about/use school library websites? Twitter? Pageflakes? Libguides? or only if teacher insists?

Nope, they don't. All but Twitter are categorized as school tools and are only used when absolutely necessary and Google won't suffice.

answers to questions from Twitter on teen practices


  1. Didn’t see any questions about “How much of their time is spent looking for porn”, which I’d guess would be about 90% of it.

  2. I’m a 17 year old student in the UK and I added my law teacher on Facebook. She’s young and well … a normal person outside of college so it’s odd to see pictures of her at the pub or the ice rink or on holiday. It kind of shatters the illusion that teachers aren’t humans and live in the school.

    Still she uses it to wish the students good luck in exams mostly and I sometimes drop her a line saying I’ve forgotten to do an essay or return a textbook.

  3. From what I’ve seen of Wolfram Alpha that could well be making its way onto a lot of schoolkids’ bookmark list. I mean, it does mathematical calculations and shows its workings – just copy that out and your maths homework’s done! Although from trying it at this stage I don’t think it’s quite up to that yet.

  4. Kids don’t use twitter in fact people in general don’t use it.
    In Australia at least.
    It’s all media hype and if they do happen to use it they only have because of this.

    I’m 18 my friends just think it is a joke showing how little the general public over 25 know.

  5. I was mildly horrified to see that the two main things ‘teens’ were passionate about were their friends and God. And apparently not in that order.

    I thought I’d stepped into a Stepford Wives alternative reality for a moment – until I realised the American bias in the survey.

    I wonder what the answer was for us godless Europeans?

  6. @harraton: Do they care about their privacy?

    VERY much so. But what constitutes privacy for them is often quite different than what constitutes privacy for adults. Privacy is not dead.

    I wish she’d elaborated on this a little, since I really see very little evidence of this.

    Maybe “what constitutes privacy for them” is posting everything on the web, then getting upset when someone they don’t like finds it.

  7. I’m 17, and I can tell you that nobody my age uses Twitter.

    Twitter is for social networking addicted 25+ year olds, and the media hypes it up to be the bomb, when really it’s just fluff.

  8. I worked at a state university for 5 years. My department was in the basement of the library. It was very easy for me to take the stairs or elevator and be in the stacks. Many times I found I was the first person ever to check out a book (not a new one) or to be the first person in 8 years to do so.The library was being used by students but I was never sure what their use was.
    Textbooks, as usual, were very expensive. I don’t think they gave much value except the exercise of carrying them around.
    Then as now the majority of the graduates were women. I don’t know what the guys were out doing.
    As with most of the educational venues I’ve attended or worked for, there were a handful of mentors, a good many hacks, and those who were living examples of why tenure should be abolished.
    In such a setting, as in life, what you got was a function of what you brought to it. Social networking will help you kill time but not much else.

  9. @10

    “Social networking will help you kill time but not much else.”

    Your mileage may vary as they say, but social networking sites like myspace and facebook have been tanglibly beneficial for me as an entertainer and I can document the very real return I have gotten from taking the time to use them. In fact, I owe the internet in general a lot for my personal success as it has brought many people to me in terms of both audience and bookings going back to when I first put up a personal web page in 1996. For the first few years almost all of my TV & movie work was the result of people finding me online. Myspace continues to bring me offers and provide me with events to approach.

  10. if you think about it, most of this stuff isn’t really surprising (for america, at least). especially the part about very low interest in social issues unless they need to care for college entry, and getting what they want even when they can’t pay for it. that’s been true at least since teenagers and the interweb first co-existed in any real way (1998?).

    twitter may never catch on in its present form–it just doesn’t do what myspace/facebook can do, and the SN sites do it better. private messaging, for example. photo tagging.

    the bit about god being super popular depends on geographical survey bias, i’m guessing, but my experience has (anecdotally) been: urban, high density trend toward “meh”-atheism, all else trend sharply toward religiosity. my one job in the ‘burbs a couple years back had me as the only godless heathen in a sea of openly-monotheistic folk who easily assumed that i was among them. i didn’t speak out ’cause i didn’t want to become their token athiest, but it probably wouldn’t have mattered.

    on a different note: what is the trend toward Capitalization and proper grammar vs. SMS shorthand and wannabe e.e. cummings-ness?

  11. I just signed up for Twitter because I don’t mind my parents following it. I won’t let them join Facebook.

  12. “@thornet: ask ’em how they judge whether a news outlet is credible.teens r good @ spotting fakes & phonies;wonder what their news criteria r

    They don’t watch a lot of news and they have no media literacy training and they’re not even thinking about credibility of news.”

    Most of what I remember from English lessons in the UK, age 14-ish upwards, was reading and comparing contrasting news articles. (I’m sure we did other stuff, but that’s most of what I remember.)

  13. @ maxoid

    “You can definitely look to certain subcultural practices to witness distinctions, such as the culture around AzN pRiDe. But there are huge differences between linguistic practices that are meant to be distinct and culturally resistant (such as those that are actually hard to produce) and those that are meant to make communication easier (fast IMing) or accommodate techno-economic limitations (160 chars). It’s important to remember that a lot of our writing (and speaking) is intentionally redundant to account for issues in hearing and penmanship. With typing, a lot of this falls by the wayside and it’s hard to argue against shorthand except to cling to inertia. Language changes. New genres of media change language. Expect things to change. Expect new generations to be pulled between what they will see as “obvious” shifts and what they’ll be forced to accommodate by those who demand status quo.”

    Your question has been answered!

    I kind of agree- if I am IMing, txting or G-chatting, etc., I play it loose and fast with grammar, spelling, punctuation. In a longer email I will try to be more clear and will even use a semi-colon here and there.

    I used twitter for about a week, and it was way too annoying and irrelevant for me to continue. I agree that it just isn’t all that if you compare SNS and other ways of sending short messages to your peers.

  14. @Nosehat #8 (and I know I’m late to the party, have been away from the interwebs for a few days)

    I’m not sure how serious or sarcastic or comment was (Curse the limitations of text communication!) but I think you’re pretty much right. Even danah boyd has talked about this in one of the many papers and videos BB has linked to. There have been privacy “scandals” on social networking sites, but those occur when the info posted online by the user becomes exposed to the “wrong” people, i.e. to people who should not (according to the expectations of the user and/or to the SNS’s descriptions of its privacy settings) have been exposed to the info.

    People who are not used to Web 2.0 in general and SNSs in particular think that “Kids these days have forgotten the concept of privacy” or something like that, because “kids post everything about themselves online” and “online=public”. What these people don’t see is that “online”, in some cases, can be a private space where you share something only with your closest friends. There is a lot of nuance to who can see what when you post something on a Web 2.0 platform, which means that SNS users probably have an even more complex sense of privacy than the previous generation’s “Either it’s PRIVATE (me and a handful of people talking about it behind closed doors) or it’s PUBLIC (anyone in the world can see it)”. I think the older generation encounters this nuanced spectrum of privacy and mistakes it for “But it’s all public!” because it doesn’t quite match up with their definition of “private”. Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s public.

    But I think most privacy concerns online happen when people realize that information about them that has always been public but non-trivial to find and correlate (such as public records of lawsuits/divorces, contact info such as email addresses (on newsletters put online) and telephone/street-address info, etc) is suddenly trivially found via Google search. Those people need to realize that we are in the information age and that anything public is now really really PUBLIC. A similar issue is credit-card companies and store discount cards and Amazon keeping track of what you buy… But that’s a whole other story.

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