Teenagers have always been attracted to public spaces where they can hang out with friends, find new friends, and talk endlessly with peers about matters that concern them, away from parents and other authority figures. Such gatherings are crucial to human development; they are how teenagers expand their social horizons, share views on issues that matter to them, experiment with different versions of their personality, and develop the sense of independence from parents and other adults that they must in order to become adults themselves.
Until rather recently, the places where teens would find one another were physical, geographical spaces, but today they are more often located in cyberspace. Many adults are puzzled, and some are apppalled, by the amount of time teens spend online and by what they seem to do there. A terrific new book by danah boyd (who spells her name without capitals), entitled It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, helps us make sense of it.