Adultism and Youth Use of Social Media (Mimi Ito and danah boyd)

Adult bias and projections on youth are described by social media researcher danah boyd (she uses lower case), the author of It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens (2014). She points out that too many adults view youth as “other,” lumping them into a generational category, instead of acknowledging their diversity. Adults think they know about youth because they were teens or parent them. Journalists, politicians, and others too often portray youth either as rebellious troublemakers or innocent and vulnerable—in need of protection. Youth were the focus of most of the 20th century moral panics, in terms of their use of drugs, sex, video games and other media, and rock n’ roll, so that they are surveilled and regulated by adults. They aren’t seen as “deserving any agency, and, yet, they are also judged based on what they chose to do.” Thus, the decision of scholars to “tell their story is often activist in nature, even if heretical to some.”[i]

Mimi Ito, involved in the Digital Youth study, reports it’s important to reveal “how adults often unreasonably curtail young people’s freedom and voice.” She states that, “Age is one of the most naturalized forms of oppression that we have,” the least questioned among racism, sexism, and classism despite ongoing “generational tension and moral panics.” In modern times adolescents are segregated, but electronic media allows them to access adult worlds, to be unsupervised, and have more private conversations than phones may permit. Ito studies girls’ mobile phone culture to explore “girl-led tech innovation.”[ii] Now that more adults join youth in using social media, traits that were attributed to youth such as “drama, oversharing, narcissism, attentional fragmentation, are certainly not age specific.” Ito and co-author dana boyd (she uses lower case) look to electronic media use as a source of freedom for young people.

[i] Henry Jenkins, Mizuko Ito, danah boyd. Participatory Culture in a Networked Era. Polity, 2016, p. 35.




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