The 73rd MediaSnackers podcast discusses the new book Totally Wired with its author.
(WORLD) The MediaSnackers podcast focusses on individuals, organisations or companies who are simply impressing us and which are crying out for more discussion.
0.39—1.59 about Totally Wired and its relevance
2.00—4.09 are the moral panics about online activities warranted
4.10—6.11 political reaction to new media
6.12—8.40 the positives of teens online
8.41—10.18 the future discourse
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Anastasia: My name is Anastasia Goodstein and I am the publisher of Ypulse.com which is a blog that offers news and commentary about generation Y for media and marketing professionals. And I also just wrote a book called Totally Wired: What Teens and Tweens Are Really Doing Online which is geared towards parents and educators and is being published by St. Martin’s Press March 20th.
DK: Brilliant. Well, thanks for giving up your time Anastasia, we really appreciate it. Tell us a bit about the motivations behind Totally Wired the book and why the subject is now very important and of relevance in the US?
Anastasia: Well, you know blogging five days a week about sort everything that’s going on in youth culture, mainly for marketers and people who are working in media or just trying to reach youth, it became quite clear that technology is really what they’re eating, sleeping and breathing these days. And as the headlines started to pop up around MySpace and other social networking sites and a sort of hysteria began. I really felt like parents were starting to freak out and teachers were starting to freak out and the sort of internet scare that happened and actually back in the late ‘90s around chat rooms were sort of cropping up again. And I felt like there was a real need for there to be a voice of reason for parents to just let them know what’s really going on, to assure them that the internet isn’t the big bad wolf and that teens are doing pretty much what teens have always done – they’re just doing it online.
DK: Okay. And how much is the moral panic then do you think from your perspective warranted by not just mainstream media but other organisations like you just cited?
Anastasia: Yeah, I do think it’s a moral panic, I think people are panicking. I think that the panic around stranger danger or online predators is very, very overblown. If you look at the crime statistics – I don’t have them in front of me but I have them in a book – there’s much more to fear for children and young adults from people they know, even people in their families, than from strangers. Now that said, there are obviously bad people out there and there are predators that are looking for young people online. And when it does happen, you certainly are going to hear about it all over the news.
But I think that many teenagers, especially older teenagers, I think it’s much riskier for tweens and children because I think they’re just less savvy and more vulnerable to people posing as other people and trying to sort of lure them in online. But I think that most teenagers, older teenagers, are very savvy about being online and they don’t want to talk to strangers, they don’t. Even if it’s someone posing as a teen, sometimes even if it’s a teen that they just don’t know at all to reach out to them on their MySpace or in some way almost feels like a violation of their space or their sort of world which is pretty much composed, even online, of mostly people that they know, either that they’ve met in person offline, that they see at school, that they know through a friend or someone they keep in touch with.
But apart from teens who have very specific interests and are spending time online on a particular forum, say, they’re vegetarians or Goths or they’re really into computer games and they might talk with other teens or people they don’t know about a specific topic. I think for the general socialisation and teens are really talking to their friends, they’re continuing the conversation.
DK: Definitely. And I think there’s a lot more permission based kind of access and walls online now and with the social communities tying in access, only allowing access when they decide that you can have access. A lot of parents aren’t aware of that or educators aren’t aware of that. You touched very briefly on the stranger danger and can I talk to you maybe a bit about DOPA, the Deletion of Online Predators Act and how that reared its ugly head recently and then it was quashed and now it’s come back again? What is the political reaction to this new media adoption by young people in the States?
Anastasia: Right. I think whenever people fear something, the easiest thing to do is to try to just legislate it away or even to use technology to try to filter it out. If you talk to librarians or you talk to educators who are sort of living the way that they created regulations that have them putting photos, blocking certain websites. most will tell you that they just block sites and information that are actually useful and important for teens to access. And there is no sort of perfect either parenting or educating through technology, through using all the software.
I also think the biggest problem with DOPA and cutting off access to all social media in libraries and schools is that there still is a bit of a digital divide in this country and there are young people who don’t have access at home and where they get online and where they experience the internet is at school or after school at a library or even at an after school program that receives Federal funding. And if this type of legislation passes, we’re basically leaving out a whole group of teens from experiencing all these really dramatic changes that we’ve seen with social media.
DK: And we talk a lot about the negative; let’s maybe get around the positives. Tell us a bit from your perspectives, when you’re writing the books I know you spoke to a helluva lot of different people and also young people themselves. Tell us about the positives about young people being wired.
Anastasia: I definitely think that there is positive – well there are a couple – I mean there are several, but I think that teens being able to really be creative and to express themselves online and to receive sort of instant feedback in validation is a pretty amazing thing. I mean they are suddenly able to reach an audience that may just be their friends or could go beyond their friends with sites like YouTube where they can upload their videos or creating their own podcasts or even just blogging. So I think while most teens are just doing that sort of publishing and using these sites to socialise and to connect with their friends, I think that there are also teens who are using it to express themselves; to publish their poetry; to publish their photographs; to say something and to be able to do that and to hear from an audience is incredibly validating for young people.
I also think from an educational standpoint, I mean, I was talking to somebody in my age and we were talking about writing a research paper and the way that we learned to do it was you had to have books and paper and little index cards where you sort wrote what you were going to cite on these different index cards. And it’s just now everything is online and there’s an upside and downside to that in terms of being able to ascertain which sources are really credible but just the fact that you can go on Google and just find pretty much anything.
Just so much information and so much research I think. I was at a conference where they asked teens if they had to unplug, if they had internet taken away from them, what would they miss the most. And everybody thought it was going to be IM’ing and chatting and all of that but it was actually being able to do their homework; being able to do research. They had become so dependant online to be able to do their schoolwork.
DK: Definitely. And I think that the power axis is shifting. It’s just simply devolving. Young people have more access to it but now they’re creators, they’re producers, they’re participants. And I think it’s a really empowering phenomenon that’s happening throughout the world now. We’ll wrap this interview up with one question about the future. Where do you see the discussion moving on in terms of youth media and technology adoption? Where do you see it evolving to? Is it all going to be negative or is it going to turn into positive sometime; where?
Anastasia: I am hoping that it turns into positive. I think that what’s going to help with the negative is that and the goal of the book is really to get adults and parents and educators up to speed and really internet literate and helping young people to be ethical online and to treat others with respect online and to be information literate and to be what teens need adults to be. They need sort of guides; not in like what’s new and cool because they’ll be telling us that from now on. And they’re going to be creating and defining media from now on. But I still think that there is obviously a huge role for adults to play in teens lives and sort of being a bit of a guide in terms of helping them to set limits and understand right from wrong and what they’re doing online so that it does shift to positive.
DK: Definitely. Well I’d like to thank you for giving up your time to speak to MediaSnackers Anastasia. I really appreciate it.
Anastasia: Thank you.