New book: Internet safer for teens than parents may think

A new book, It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, suggests that internet may be safer for teens than moms and dads may think.

The author of the book is Danah Boyd, who holds positions at Microsoft Research, New York University, and Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

The Time Heath reporter Randye Hoder had four three big takeaways from the book, and here they are. From Time Healthland:

The internet is not making teens social misfits — The writer says that teens would love to go out and be with their peers but often are not allowed to wander about so instead they congregate on social media.

“To make up for this lost freedom, teens have turned to their computers. “The success of social media must be understood partly in relation to this shrinking social landscape,” Boyd explains. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and other sites “are not only new public spaces; they are in many cases the only ‘public’ spaces in which teens can easily congregate with large groups of their peers.””

The internet isn’t full of sexual predators

“Boyd is careful here, clearly not wanting to dismiss parents’ apprehensions about their kids’ security and wellbeing. “They are afraid because terrible things do happen to children,” she acknowledges.

“But she argues that parents should keep things in perspective. “Internet-initiated sexual assaults are rare,” she writes, adding that the overall number of sex crimes against minors has actually been falling for more than two decades—a strong indication that “the Internet is not creating a new plague.’ ”

In fact, the author notes that studies show teenagers are far more likely to be attacked by a family member or someone they know.

Teens aren’t as Internet savvy as we think

Just because they are comfortable on the technology doesn’t mean they understand its power or can critically examine sources and information they find.

I used to see this a lot in the digital media classes I taught. The kids would tell you they knew how to use Facebook and Twitter but then didn’t really understand all aspects of it. They also didn’t always have a good understanding of a reliable source to quote from on the internet. I would be shocked by things they would be willing to use as sources for articles.

So what do you think? Is it much ado about nothing or are our kids voice chatting with potential threats online?

11 comments Add your comment


February 24th, 2014
9:08 am

My biggest recommendation to parents is to join the social revolution that is the internet and social media and quit being so afraid of it. “Friend” your kids online and watch what they post, let them know you’re watching and don’t be afraid to talk about anything inappropriate that either they or their friends post. This is not some fleeting fad that’s going to go away next year.

I am of course a huge proponent of technology but there needs to be boundaries and the internet isn’t going to set them for your kids. You need to set them but you also need to realize that the way our kids learn & work is going to be driven by technology so you can’t just say no or ignore it.

Although I don’t think most kids are going to stalked by pedophiles online, there are certain sites and apps that parents should be aware of b/c problems can arise without them be “illegal”… exampe: bullying can occur on any medium.


February 24th, 2014
9:49 am

I agree with Techmom on the idea that parents need to know what their kids are doing online. If nothing else research the social media that they are using. Most data on cyberbullying in all its forms (texts, emails, social media, etc…), you will find that most of the time the parents had no idea what their kids were doing and where they were doing it. That goes for both the bully and the victim.

I believe in age appropriate access. No 4-13 year old needs unlimited access to EVERYTHING on the net. As they get above 13 you still need to know what they are doing online to some extent.

As far as the “friend” them online…it works to some degree, but many kids have multiple accounts…one for what family and some friends see, and one that they use for all other things. They are kids and they know how to find a way around parents when they really want to.

The best advice is to educate yourself, and educate your kids. Don’t assume because they are “tech savvy” that they know what is appropriate. Assuming is the biggest mistake a parent can make about not just the internet, but ANYTHING in their kid’s life.


February 24th, 2014
10:18 am

Numbers show that they drink less, smoke less, use less drugs, have less sex and interact better socially, but “the good ole days” crew will ignore the facts and complain about what’s wrong with today’s youth.


February 24th, 2014
11:41 am

I don’t understand why ALL parents don’t keep the computers out in the open, so that the kids will have a harder time going where they shouldn’t, and parents can more easily monitor what in coming in from the outside. This, plus the parental blocks, make it easier to keep kids safe. Also, what kid really needs a webcam? I would switch to laptops, keep them in dining or living room during working hours, and then tuck them away at night. I think most parents can blame themselves when their kids get into mischief with regard to technology – it’s not that hard folks.


February 24th, 2014
11:59 am

Laptops have built-in webcams, fyi


February 24th, 2014
12:30 pm

Missnadine – kids get online with a lot more than just a desktop pc anymore… phones, tablets, iPods, laptops, etc.They’re all very portable.


February 24th, 2014
2:12 pm

I definately think that the computer needs to be out in a family room (den, living room, kitchen, etc) and not in the child’s bedroom. It’d be alot harder for the child to surf around where they shouldn’t if there was always the risk of someone coming by.


February 24th, 2014
2:13 pm

@techmom – yes I know kids can get online a number of ways – that is well known, but my point is that parents of today allow way too much freedom regarding technology access. Does a 10-year need that much access to technology, how about a 6-year old? @BlondeHoney: I know webcams are also built-in, but those can be easily disabled. Many parents also buy the additional webcams, which I don’t think the average kid needs access to, do you?

There will be lots of times when children are outside of parents’ view, but there is no reason why all technology can’t be placed, in the home anyways, where it is in full view of the family. Parents have gotten so lax, when the possibility of foul play is so huge, despite what this book states. It bothers me that the younger moms and dads sometimes seem almost oblivious to the dangers. My 15-year old niece is allowed a facebook page, and a twitter account, and from what I’ve seen, not much parental control. She is a good girl, very much into sports, and seems to have a good group of friends, but in my opinion she gives way too much personal information, and posts too many selfies. My sister is older than me (I am 52) but is a later-years mom. I am most surprised that she doesn’t know better since she did not grow up with that technology. Many parents in their late 20s or early 30s do have experience, and technology has been a part of their lives, but I think they need to take this topic more seriously.


February 24th, 2014
2:50 pm

@Rod -I agree 100% with your point.


February 25th, 2014
12:01 am

Put the computer in the living room in full view of the entire family- makes it harder for kids/teens to surf where they shouldn’t be. If the child/teen has a laptop, iPad, or a phone with internet access, have them turn them in before bed. For the older ones, give a time where they have to be turned into Mom or Dad, say by 10 p.m.


February 27th, 2014
9:21 am

@missnadine “Parents have gotten so lax, when the possibility of foul play is so huge, despite what the book states.” The book is well researched, thoroughly documented, and states, quite clearly, that the danger is way overblown. Do you have sources for your contention that boyd is underplaying the risk?

Teens are far more at risk (as they always have been) from family or neighbors or friends of the family. Yes, we should educate them to be safe and smart online. Yes, parents do need to be more involved. But, as boyd points out in the book, keep things in perspective.