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May 17, 2014

Researcher: technology not to blame for teen woes

NEW YORK — Danah Boyd has made a name for herself at the research division of Microsoft for painstaking work examining social media, Big Data and the tension between public and private lives, but it’s her teens’-eye view of the digital world that sets her apart.

Now, Boyd has written her first book, “It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens,” out in February from Yale University Press and available for free on her website, Danah.org. Earlier this year, she added another accomplishment to her list: mom.

Boyd interviewed more than 150 teens from a range of backgrounds for the book, also relying on extensive research on all aspects of their digital lives.

Five questions for Danah Boyd:

AP: What do parents need to understand about the online lives of teens?

Boyd: They need to realize that young people are doing the same things online as we all did as kids in other places where we gathered with our friends. They’re hanging out. They’re messing around with each other. They’re socializing. They’re flirting. They’re gossiping. They’re joking around, and much of this is perfectly reasonable teen stuff. Some of it is problematic. Some of it is glorious.

But the kinds of places young people used to gather are no longer accessible for a variety of reasons. The first is a level of fear and anxiety that exists, the result of 24-7 news, where there’s a sense that there’s terrible things happening to kids everywhere. We’ve transferred all that fear and anxiety to their online lives, but to them it’s a release valve, to finally find a place where they can hang out. It’s not that they’re addicted to the technology. It’s that they want a place where their friends are.

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