Friday, April 16, 2010

Risk and experimentation

I have a chapter on UK teens' social networking as new literacy in this fine-looking volume edited by Donna Alvermann. As I'm looking back over the data ahead of this year's AERA conference in Denver, I've been struck by how the teenagers in my study were poised between the overlapping discourses of risk and experimentation. Their engagement with Facebook and Bebo was marked by caution. The social networking of some was monitored by their parents and they were all aware of the public nature of what they wrote - how universities, employers or new friends might read their pages in different ways. And they were also aware of some of the potential difficulties associated with friending 'randoms', particularly in the light of high profile media stories of stalking, grooming and worse. The teenage girls were accutely aware of how they presented themselves in their profile pictures. 'Pouting' was described as 'ridiculous' and some thought a head-and-shoulders shot should include some evidence of clothing 'just in case'. At times, reading the data, it almost felt that they were hypersensitised to risk through repeated doses of e-safety. Yet, interestingly, at the same time there was evidence of innovative and creative activity, playfulness as well as careful attention to managing sensitive social relationships and how these might be enriched, supplemented or mediated by their digital practices.

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