By providing just a taste of how social technologies have altered the architecture of public life, it is critical for educators to understand how mediated publics are shifting the lives of youth. There are very good reasons why youth use them and encouraging them to return to traditional socialisation structures is simply not feasible. Let us look at offering some concrete advice to educators about how to think about the new media and how to engage with youth directly.
1. We should recognize that youth want to hang out with their friends in youth space.
Although most adults wish that formal education was the number one priority of youth, this is rarely the case. Most youth are far more concerned with connecting with friends. Their activities are very much driven by their friend group and there is immense informal
learning taking place outside of school. Learning social norms, status structures, and how to negotiate relationships of all types is crucial to teens. While most adults take these skills for granted, they are heavily developed during the teen years. In contemporary society, this process primarily takes place amongst peer groups.
2. The Internet mirrors and magnifies all aspects of social life.
When a teen is engaged in risky behaviour online, that is typically a sign that they’re engaged in risky behaviour offline. Troubled teens reveal their troubles online both explicitly and implicitly. It is not the online world that is making them troubled, but it is a fantastic opportunity for intervention. What would it mean to have digital street outreach where people started reaching out to troubled teens, not to punish them, but to be able to help? We already do street outreach in cities – why not treat the networked world as one large city? Imagine having college students troll the profiles of teens in their area in order to help troubled kids, just as they wander the physical streets. Too often we blame technology for what it reveals, but destroying or regulating the technology will not solve
the underlying problems that are made visible through mediated publics like social network sites.
It’s also important to realise that the technology makes it easier to find those who are seeking attention than those who are not. The vast majority of teens using these sites are engaged in relatively mundane activities, but the ‘at risk’ ones are made visible through mainstream media. In this way, both the technology and the press coverage magnify the most troublesome aspects of everyday life because they are inherently more interesting.
3. Questions abound. There are no truths, only conversations.
Over the last year, dozens of parenting guides have emerged to provide black and white rules about how youth should interact with social network sites. These rules though fail to protect youth. Rules motivate submissive youth, but they do little to get youth to think through the major issues. Conversation (not lecturing) is a key and it needs to be clear that there is no correct answer; it’s all a matter of choices and pros and cons.