Debunking myths, researchers Alice Marwick and danah boyd write that the core elements of high-school life are fundamentally the same as they were decades ago.
It’s lunchtime in a suburban high school in Nashville, Tennessee, and Andrew*, 17, has already sent more than 200 text messages. Assuming he woke up at seven, that’s roughly one text every 90 seconds.
To those far removed from their teen years, such a rate of texting may seem inconceivable. Modern teenage life itself appears alien, or at least alienating. The devices and gadgets that now dominate young peoples’ lives remove them from their friends and family, the story goes, isolating teens in a virtual netherworld. These “digital natives,” it sometimes seems, are more comfortable with technology than they are with each other.
But our research suggests otherwise. In the last decade, we’ve studied how technology affects how teens socialize, how they present themselves, and how they think about issues like gender and privacy. While it’s true that teens incorporate social media into many facets of their lives, and that they face new pressures their parents didn’t—from cyber-bullying to fearmongering over “online predators”—the core elements of high-school life are fundamentally the same today as they were two decades ago: friends, relationships, grades, family, and the future.
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