MySpace and Deleting Online Predators Act (with Henry Jenkins)

Henry Jenkins and Danah Boyd published a full email interview about MySpace and such. They encourage sharing, so here is my remix of that:

What is MySpace?

Danah: “When youth login, their first task is typically to check messages in order to see who has written them. While email is still used to communicate with adults and authorities, MySpace is the primary asynchronous communication tool for teens.

After checking personal messages, youth check friend additions, bulletin board posts, event announcements and new blog posts by friends. They visit their friends’ pages to see new photos or check out each other’s comments.

The vast majority of social network site use amongst youth does not involve surfing to strangers’ profiles, but engaging more locally with known friends and acquaintances.

[…] these sites give youth a space to hang out amongst friends and peers, share cultural artifacts (like links to funny websites, comments about TV shows) and work out an image of how they see themselves.”

What is the controversy over MySpace?

Henry: “Much of the controversy has come not as a result of anything new that MySpace and the other social software sites contribute to teen culture but simply from the fact that adults can no longer hide their eyes to aspects of youth culture in America that have been there all along.”

Q: What do ‘social networking software programs’ provide participants? What’s their down side?

danah: “By giving youth access to a public of their peers, MySpace provides a fertile ground for identity development and cultural integration. As youth transition from childhood, they seek out public environments to make sense of culture, social status and how they fit into the world. Interacting with strangers helps them understand who they are and communities of interest allow them to explore ideas and values. Although youth are able to socialize privately with one another in the homes of friends, most are not allowed to spend time hanging out in public, unaccompanied by parents or adults.”

Q: What educational use might/does MySpace or other social network software have?

Henry: “Teachers are discovering that students take their assignments more seriously and write better if they are producing work which will reach a larger public rather than simply sit on the teacher’s desk.”

Q: The proposed bill appears to offer protection to minors from online predators, by limiting their mutual access. Is predation a real danger with MySpace?

Danah: “Statistically speaking, kids are more at risk at a church picnic or a boy scout outing than they are when they go on MySpace. Less than .01% of all youth abductions nationwide are stranger abductions and as far as we know, no stranger abduction has occurred because of social network services.
The fear of predators has regularly been touted as a reason to restrict youth from both physical and digital publics. Yet, as Barry Glassner notes in The Culture of Fear, predators help distract us from more statistically significant molesters. Youth are at far greater risk of abuse in their homes and in the homes of their friends than they ever are in digital or physical publics.”

Q: You have said elsewhere (and several years ago) that virtual gaming experiences of today are analogous to the unfettered play in the backyards of the 1950s — very core & essential experiences. Have social networking like MySpace or games or other new media technology become core experiences now?

Henry: “As I suggested above, most parents understand their children’s experiences in the context of their memories of their own early years. For the baby boom generation, those defining experiences involved playing in backyards and vacant lots within suburban neighborhoods, socializing with their friends at the local teen hangout, and participating within a social realm which was constrained by the people who went to your local school.

All of that is changing. Contemporary children and youth enjoy far less physical mobility, have less time outside of adult control, and have fewer physical places to hang out with their friends.

Much of this activity is being brought online. What teens are doing online is no better and no worse than what previous generations of teens did when their parents weren’t looking.

The difference is that as these activities are being digitized, they are also being brought into public view.

Video games bring the fantasy lives of young boys into the family room and parents are shocked by what they are seeing. Social networks give adults a way to access their teens’ social and romantic lives and they are startled by their desire to break free from restraints or act older than their age. Parents are experiencing this as a loss of control but in fact, adults have greater control over these aspects of their children’s lives than ever before.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s