WIRED -- Apr 18 -- At the Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference in Seattle last week five teenagers with a sophisticated grasp of civil liberties and First Amendment rights took the stage; moderated by Danah Boyd and Kevin Bankston, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Boyd: Do any of you or your peers use text messaging, and if so why?
Morgan: Well, a lot of my friends use text messaging so that they can (communicate) in class without getting caught. They become experts at sitting there looking like they're reading books, but they're really punching in their text message to their friends. And what really pisses me off ... is they use it during tests to transfer answers.
Boyd: I know that some of your friends and you use (blogging). So why did your friends start using it and what do they use it for? Morgan: If you've got something that's bothering you, you can just rant about it (on a blog) and get it off your chest without actually doing something that you might regret later. Elisabeth: My parents got divorced this year. It's kind of rough. I can just tell my friends something (on my blog) that was going on without having to do this whole sob thing (in person). Steve: It's a safety valve for a lot of teenagers, just to keep them from blowing their tops. Max: It's a great way to understand what everyone thinks about (a) teacher.
Boyd: Another argument against teenage blogging is that it exposes you to the ever-present sexual predators. Does this stop anyone you know from participating? Steve: My cousin chatted with someone she thought was a 13-year-old girl for about two years and ended up almost being kidnapped by a 30-year-old stalker.... So I think you need to be careful with it, but I think if you use common sense it's perfectly safe. Elisabeth: I remember the first day I posted my (profile on) MySpace. I got this message from some guy who's like, "You're cute. Do you have a webcam? Why don't we talk on AIM, here's my (AIM address)." I was like, "Yeah, OK" (speaking sarcastically). I mean, you don't talk to people you don't know. It's common sense. Steve: You don't actually have to be yourself (on a blog). You can put up completely false information and you can still blog with your friends. People you trust know that it's really you, the other people don't. Steve: Actually, most of the people put up real information.
Morgan: Yeah, a lot of people put up information I wouldn't put up if I were them.
Boyd: How popular is file-sharing amongst your community and how has it changed over time? Elisabeth: It's really popular. I know I use it but not very much. I know all my friends use it. I don't want to pay $18 for a CD when I can download songs or burn a CD from all my friends. Morgan: I think that it's actually decreased in recent years.... You're more likely to get your music from your friends than from anybody else. I know that lots of times when I go over to LAN parties or something I'll look at other people's music ... and I'll throw their files onto my computer. It's faster than file sharing, it's easier, and it's not as illegal. (Audience laughs nervously.)
Boyd: Schools have been interested in implementing filtering systems that purport to block pornography and other offensive material. Do any of your schools do this? Morgan: My school ... used to filter only some stuff, now it's filtering more.... I'm actually opposed to all forms of filtering. People need to make their own decisions. Schools should not be making moral decisions for their students. Bankston: Adults justify this filtering because they feel the material is harmful to minors. Do you buy that? Morgan: Partially yes, because I do know people who have had pornography addictions in third grade. But on the other hand, it's really not the job of the school to stop that from happening. The parents need to teach their kids not to do that. Elisabeth: I don't think that porn is a very good thing to have on the internet, but I don't think that that kind of stuff should be allowed on the internet (at all) if it's so bad for us. Steve: I find it quite absurd that they would filter based on swear words. Honestly, I hear more swear words in school than from anywhere else.
Steve: Every kid at whatever age gets "the talk" from their parents about sex. So why don't they have a one-on-one mature conversation with their kids about privacy on the internet as well? Morgan: Parents really need to talk to their kids more. A lot of times (my parents) don't really talk to me about anything, they just expect me to know it. If parents want their kids to act mature, if they want their kids to care about certain things, they need to explain to their kids why they should care.
Mark Brooks: Great insight. Check out Danah's papers, 'Friendster and Publicly Articulated Social Networks' 'Social Network Fragments' 'Sexing the Internet'