Cultural anthropologist Danah Boyd’s presentation on teenagers living and learning with social media completely captured my attention. As She begins discussing the implications of social media as it relates to teenagers and their social constructs She delves into some preconceived notions of a changing youth culture. She goes on to reframe the change of youth culture as no actual change at all. The same social forces drove teenagers in past generations just as those forces do today. Teenagers still want to hang out with their friends, gossip, flirt and participate in youthful activities just like past generations. It is actually the larger social context that has changed around teenagers and they are only responding in attempts to meets their social desires. In today’s society more and more parents are restricting their kids face to face hang out time, which leaves teens no other option but to utilize the technology surrounding them. Social sites are a lot like the soda shops and roller skating rinks of the past as parents are now scared to let their kids go to the present day equivalents of these social hangouts.
A lot of the friends teens have in their real world are the same individuals they are friends with on their social sites. They are continuing their friendships and chit chat conversations via the virtual existence they create online. Their online interactions work to generate the same social dramas that exist within their real world experiences. Comments on sites are a way to gain acceptance within their real world friend circles and everyday generic conversations are a means of social grooming as this interaction is the building blocks of adult relationships. However some of the interchanges between teens are in the form of bullying which is quite often based on underlying social structures and the dynamics of social class, which is embedded within the users of social media sites. As teachers we must be careful not to reinforce those inappropriate interactions through improper use of social media in our classes. It must be our goal to show how the system works and use it to further inquiry through the development of critical thinking skills. Most adults believe since kids know how to use the technology that grants them access to their online friends that they can also apply those skills for the acquisition of knowledge and make meaningful connections. Some teens may translate their search and capture skills to academic studies but for most it is a means of extending their social life.
As teachers we must be aware of the perceptions each generation carries with their social connections. Teachers should not be intimidated by technology nor should they feel inferior to digital natives, as this is harmful. We must further our role as facilitator in the technology world and model proper use of these technologies. How to execute this I leave for your thoughts.