Under 18: Blogs, Wikis and Online Social Networking Sites for Youth

Warning: I took a lot of notes, sorry! The session was too good.

Under 18: Blogs, Wikis and Online Social Networking Sites for Youth
11:30 CST

Andrea Forte, Georgia Institute of Technology (moderator)
danah boyd, USC Annenberg Center
Anastasia Goodstein, Publisher, Ypulse
Kate Raynes-Goldie, TakingITGlobal
Erin Reilly, Exec Dir, Platform Shoes Forum
Elisabeth Sylvan, Researcher, MIT Media Laboratory

87% of teens 12-17 online, 80% of parents online, 54% of American families filter

 Young people online are:
1)      in constant moral danger
fulfilling their inner potential

neither is reality, somewhere in the middle

dana boyd: 100 years ago less than 10% of 14-17 year olds going to high school. 1930’s during depression, made teens go to high school to stop competition for jobs for older men. Created age segregation where young men were initiated when they entered older age segments. Now teens are mainly exposed to only other teens. “Teenager” became a marketing term by 1941. Marketing shifted towards age groups. 1950’s went to a movie that was meant for “you” not for all society. 1960’s started legislating to keep kids away form adult spaces. 1980’s curfews. Everything young people did was terrible and we needed to keep them away from adults. The internet allows for people who are trapped in their homes to escape. 

“If you’re not on myspace, you don’t exist” – Skyler Sierra from Kathy Sierra’s blog

Kids can now be tracked (searched for), replicability (anything copy/pasted), recognizability (no one knows who anyone is online).

Erin Reilly: created safe online space for girls who are interested in science, engineering, technology. Knew it had to be online social networking to engage the kids. Zoe’s room is the name of the space. Creating mobile device – the more they are active, the more power their online avatar has. 

Elisabeth Sylvan: building inspiring tools for kids. Blocks are great, how would you digitally enhance blocks for older kids to make sculpture, sculpture that moves, programming, etc? Want to make kids realize their dreams with tools made available to them. Computer Clubhouse – over 100 physical centers around the world where kids can create whatever they like with computers in a mentored environment. Ex: make portraits of themselves, designing video games. Mentors encourage them to create what they want to create, different than learning in schools. Shows them how technology can be a part of their lives. All Clubhouses share an intranet site where great cross-cultural interactions take place.

Other community she works with: Scratch. (built on top of Squeak). Visual programming environment, very easy to use. Easy to introduce to adults as well. Can make games, interactive stories, make artwork. Online space where kids can post projects, download code, leave comments, etc. 

Kate Raynes-Goldie: Online community for young activists. Do a lot of offline engagement as well. Created 5 years ago, before Facebook, MySpace. Designed by youth for youth, a key to our success. How can we engage teens online before alienating teachers and lawmakers? Online discussion boards, profiles, etc just like other sites. But also using to inform themselves to learn about issues, organize protests and dialogues, participate in national and international decision making. We were founded before the moral panic around social networking so that is a new challenge for us. They have another version of their website designed to be used in the classroom. We educate teachers and schools about how to use our tools and how to use the internet safely. Have to counter huge mass-media machine that takes a few incidents and makes the Internet look like an awful place. The ed site is more teachery-looking, pastel colors, etc. Trying to strike a fine balance between adult acceptance and student interest. Adults generally don’t get what kids are about which creates a lack of what kids need. Kids who should be mentoring kids generally don’t know enough about the internet. Generally end up with spaces that marginalize youth and are oppressive.

Anastasia Goodstein: I blog about generation Y info for media professionals. Totally Wired: What Teens and Tweens are Really Doing Online. Her new book for adults to learn about youth online behavior. Parents often glaze over when talking about tech. Need to talk parents down and explain that teens are really just socializing online, looking for validation. Usually with friends, sometimes with strangers. They are getting their education online. When teens have Internet taken away the thing they miss most is being able to do homework research, not e-mail, IM etc (she cited Nickelodeon study). Identity creation is a big part of their development, and much of what they are doing online with identities, avatars, etc. You can’t legislate good behavior. There are issues we need to deal with. You can’t solve this with technology (filters, etc). The main way to work on this is through dialogue. Parents are afraid because their kids know more than them, they don’t know what to say. We need to create the dialogue so that parents can be closer to their kids and know more about what they are doing in their lives. 

Andrea Forte: “Wikis scare the hell out of high school teachers.” A completely open environment is hard to line up with standard assessment practices. Wikipedia: young people have an opportunity to contribute to something legitimate. We need to bring young people into adult conversations in a legitimate fashion.

Three questions from moderator: Q1: What exactly are young people getting out of their lives online? Q2: What is reality when it comes to dangers for young people online? Q3: What kinds of social, tech/design solutions are there once we identify experiences we want to facilitate and/or prevent? 

dana boyd: DOPA – legislation, Deleting Online Predators Act. Not what it sounds like. Bans all minors from all social technologies in schools and libraries – Yahoo groups, Neopets, Wikipedia (exception for non-profits, but Wikia, Wiki news), MySpace and all the like. Not banned at home. Moving from digital divide problem to participatory divide problem – private vs. public schools. Most teens ignore strangers; the ones who don’t are the kids who aren’t doing so well – there are a lot of these kids. The online world isn’t so different than the offline world that way, but it is a problem because the kids are doing poorly. What if we put social workers on MySpace? Instead of blame the tech, realize they are people regardless of technology. If we took care of the people, the technology wouldn’t matter.

Erin Reilly: cyberbullying (especially with girls) is the greater problem, not online predators. It always goes back to education. Rural community workshop: 25 tween girls, none of them knew what a pedophile was. We must be educating them. 

Anastasia Goodstein: Plagiarism and cheating is a major new problem. Texting under your hoodie. Big need for educators to teach kids about finding credible sources, about plagiarism, etc. Students using personal statement form other students to apply for schools.

Erin Reilly: media literacy was a big focus. Now we need to teach cyberethics. Even if my school blocks IM, if I can get around it, it doesn’t hurt anyone. Kids need to understand rules. 

Kate Raynes-Goldie: just like the drug wars, banning doesn’t work. Have to teach people.

Elisabeth Sylvan: I work with 10-18 year olds. 10 year olds have much different understanding than 18 year olds. Need to differentiate between ages when talking about online safety. Online communities should have methods for young people to alert someone when something hurts them. 

dana boyd: strange narrative: I was always allowed to talk to shopkeepers, or teachers on the first day. Strangers are those characters in your life that have no role, because anyone who has a role is not stranger. Online, I only talked to strangers. Where do I go to college, what is going on in the Gulf War, etc. What are we losing by saying no strangers online. What is trust is the real question? How do we teach that? Talking to a stranger about the Iraq war online is much different than meeting them for sex, right? Most bullying is offline, not online. The online has shifted the architecture, so what is possible is different. Why do teenagers break up on MySpace? No he-said, she-said game. Very clear to the public what happened and what was said. Then they “delete” each other.

My comment to myself: this session is fantastic! So many thoughts running through my head. 

Kate Raynes-Goldie: Young women are expected to dress that way. It is a reflection of society that our girls are posting racy pictures. We need to look at what kind of societal values we are developing.

Anastasia Goodstein: we’ve democratized bullying. Anyone can create a fake persona, anyone can steal a password. 

dana boyd: we’ve moved it to a specific cyber-ethics and forgot about the core ethics. Adults online dating are meeting strangers. 

Elisabeth Sylvan : We tend to want to put things on schools. I think that is unfair. There is a lot of stuff that schools already have to deal with. Some teachers can deal with cyberethics and some are trying to figure out how to use PowerPoint in the one hour they have to teach a lesson.

Anastasia Goodstein: shy kids are being empowered, a huge benefit. Kids who don’t raise their hands in class can blog, post to boards, etc. Harris Interactive study recently showed that offline + online friendships deepens those friendships. Adds a new layer to teen friendship.

Kate Raynes-Goldie: Kids can access communities that they might not have access to: queer, transgender, etc. 

Q: are kids more media literate?

dana boyd: No, kids haven’t learned HTML. They copy/paste or someone designed it for them. They don’t know how to navigate to a website, they know how to Google it.

My comment: Unbelievable women on this panel. When the podcast comes out I highly recommend this for ed tech folks and parents. I am going to try and get at least a couple of these women on 21st Century Learning.


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arvind s. grover

I am a progressive educator, a podcaster (EdTechTalk.com/21cl), a blogger, and dean of faculty of JK-11 school (building a high school) in New York City.