I’m in the process of reading Dana Boyd’s recently published dissertation, “Taken Out of Context.” She highlights on page 120 the tendency for most teens to use social networking sites like Facebook to connect primarily with their existing face-to-face friends, rather than to meet strangers. Most youth are NOT using social networking sites to create public profiles and global digital footprints, which could attract attention by others outside their current social circles. This points to the importance of helping people (especially teens) recognize the public nature of their social networking profiles, even when they may have set their profile’s privacy setting to “private.” Dana writes:

“Regardless of the sites’ potential, teens primarily use social network sites in ways that reinforce and replicate unmediated social dynamics. Teens are not engaging with social network sites as a separate or distinct world but as an extension of everyday life. Not only do social media extend the individual (as per Marshall McLuhan [1964]), but social network sites also appear to extend the social context and peer culture. “

This research conclusion has important implications for the conversations we have with students about Internet safety and digital citizenship. Helping students understand the inherently public and easily sharable nature of content placed on social networking sites is very important, because that awareness is NOT always part of student perceptions about these sites.

Access Dana’s full dissertation on:
http://www.danah.org/papers/

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