danah boyd and Eszter Hargiatti
Overall, our findings suggest that parental concerns don’t seem to match up with their lived experiences when it comes to meeting a stranger and exposure to violent content. They are especially worried about the possibility that a stranger will hurt their child, reflecting the pervasive anxiety about online sexual predators. Yet while such encounters are extraordinarily rare, the potential consequences of such an encounter are unthinkable. Still, the salience of parental fear about strangers in our data raises significant questions. Are parents especially afraid of strangers because this risk is particularly horrific? Or does their fear stem from the pervasive stranger-danger moral panics that have targeted social media as culprits, leading to the false impression that they are more common than they are?
How parents incorporate concerns into their parenting practices affects their children’s activities and behavior, drives technological development in the online safety arena, and shapes public discourse and policy. When parents are afraid, they may restrict access to technologies in an effort to protect their children from perceived dangers. Yet the efficacy of such restrictions is unclear. If fear-driven protective measures do little to curtail actual risk, then these actions are doing a huge disservice to children, and by extension society as a whole. The internet is a part of contemporary public life. Engagement with technology is key to helping youth understand the world around them.
The rest of the findings in this summary are worth the read as well, but I find this part fascinating and important. Given the amazing upside of connecting with strangers online, it’s crucial that parents have a valid lens to see those interactions through. Again, much of this is due to the moment; most parents still don’t have a personal context for connecting with non-family members or friends online. This will change…slowly. But as the authors suggest, the Internet has quickly become a fundamental piece of the way connected kids make sense of the world.
What role do schools play in building that lens?