Wired's Clive Thompson looks at a scathing report by Microsoft researcher Danah Boyd that argues on how kids inability to socialize is both the fault of society and parents. According to Boyd, teenagers would love to socialize face-to-face with their friends. But adult society wont let them. Teens arent addicted to social media. Theyre addicted to each other, Boyd says. Theyre not allowed to hang out the way you and I did, so theyve moved it online.
Its true. As a teenager in the early 80s I could roam pretty widely with my friends, as long as we were back by dark. But over the next three decades, the media began delivering a metronomic diet of horrifying but rare child-abduction stories, and parents shortened the leash on their kids. Politicians warned of incipient waves of youth wilding and superpredators (neither of which emerged). Municipalities crafted anti-loitering laws and curfews to keep young people from congregating alone. New neighborhoods had fewer public spaces. Crime rates plummeted, but moral panic soared. Meanwhile, increased competition to get into college meant well-off parents began heavily scheduling their kids after-school lives.
The result, Boyd discovered, is that todays teens have neither the time nor the freedom to hang out. So their avid migration to social media is a rational response to a crazy situation. Theyd rather socialize F2F, so long as its unstructured and away from grown-ups. I dont care where, one told Boyd wistfully, just not home.
Forget the empathy problemthese kids crave seeing friends in person.
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