Check out Danah Boyd’s short commentary, The Good, the Bad, the Ugly … and the Internet in Boston Magazine. In the June 15, 2012 piece Boyd describes how fears about children’s safety have curtailed their time out in the real, face-to-face world for several generations. Today many parents have transferred their fears into the digital world.
Boyd points out that many serious behavioral issues, bullying, for instance, have been and continue to be huge problems. Yet they tend to be more frequent and serious face-to-face than in the digital world (though the digital problems get more media coverage). As one of the most well-regarded observers of teen social networking behavior, Boyd conducts research for Harvard’s Berkman Center and for Microsoft.
I am delighted to see the renowned sociologist Jane Jacobs, author of The Death and Life of American Cities, quoted in this piece. Jacobs describes successful neighborhoods as places where neighbors keep their “eyes on the street,” watching out for one another. Danah Boyd reminds readers that the digital world is no different, and people must look out for each other there too. Where ever children (or adults, for that matter) play — face-to-face or digital neighborhoods — we all benefit from and ensure greater safety by keeping our “eyes on the street.”
In interviewing teens, I consistently find that they would prefer to get together in-person, but that parental fears, over-scheduling, and lack of viable transportation often make offline socialization difficult, if not altogether impossible.