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It’s Complicated

The average American "is more devoted to buying free-range meat than raising free-range children," opines Danah Boyd in It’s Complicated, as reviewed by Alissa Quart in The New York Times (4/27/14). The reason teenagers spend so much time online, in social networks, says Danah, is that they "have less freedom to wander than any previous generation." They are taught to "fear strangers" and "curfew and loitering laws" tend to "confine them to their bedrooms."

"Social media — far from being a seductive Trojan horse — is a release valve, allowing youth to reclaim meaningful sociality as a tool for managing the pressures and limitations around them." Going online enables them "to take control of their lives and their relationship to society." If adults want to change this, then they should "think about giving kids physical freedom, leisure time and more public spaces to gather to actually change their digital habits."

Young people, who have grown up in a world where "every email and text message is likely being recorded," have also found their own way to protect their privacy online. This is "a sort of interpersonal encryption when using social networks" by "using in-jokes, nicknames, code words, subliminal tweeting or ‘sub tweeting‘ so tweets become ‘meaningless to outsiders’." "Rather than finding privacy by controlling access to content," Danah writes," many teens are instead controlling access to meaning."