Social media researcher danah boyd is doing parents of online socializers a real service. Through countless quotes in news stories and many speaking engagements, she’s helping us understand what’s really going on in social sites. Don’t miss an interview with danah (who prefers to have her name uncapped) at AlterNet.org, where she dispels two widespread myths about teens’ use of social sites. Myth 1: “that everybody is on there to meet people, and everyone is on there to engage in social networking…. It has [more] to do with constructing or presenting your social network, showcasing it, showing it off, engaging in the status around it,” danah says, rather than meeting new friends. The latest research bears this out – see my 1/12 feature about the latest study. Myth 2: “that kids are in grave danger just because of participation. The risky behavior is not putting information about yourself online, which is what most adults think. We do not have a single case related to Myspace where someone has been abducted. We’ve had plenty of press coverage of these things, and every single one of them has proven to not be an abduction, but a runaway situation, or the kid was abducted by their noncustodial parent.”
danah also told interviewer Kate Sheppard that there are two “clusters of kids” who use social sites: 1) “You have kids who are getting all they need in terms of validation and status, and everything else from school, peers in the physical world, peers from church, summer camp, activities, school, those kinds of obvious physical environments” – the kids just replicating all that online – and 2) the much less common type: “the marginalized and ostracized kids who are actually actively seeking out a community of peers online because they don’t have one offline.” The latter are the kids online-safety advocates and offline experts in all forms of at-risk teen behavior really need to focus our efforts on going forward.