Online teen drama

The New Yorker nicely summarises a recent study on how teenage girls make sense of online bullying and harassment in a way that is more acceptable to their peer group.

The article is on the tragic story of a gay teen who committed suicide after being surreptitiously filmed with a lover, captured through a webcam by his room mate.

It’s well worth reading in full and during the piece it makes the point, based on a recent study by two sociologists, that many teens do not see online harassment in the same way as adults, because it doesn’t help them manage the situation within their social circle.

A recent paper by two scholars of new media—Alice Marwick, of Harvard, and Danah Boyd, of N.Y.U.—describes the tendency of teen-age girls to categorize even quite aggressive behavior as mere “drama,” in the same category as online gossip and jokes. Policy-makers and television anchors talk of “bullies” and the “bullied,” but teen-agers tend not to, in part because “teens gain little by identifying as either,” the scholars explain. “Social stigmas prevent teens from recognizing that they are weak, and few people are willing to admit that they purposefully hurt others. . . . ‘Drama’ also implies something not to be taken seriously, to be risen above, while the adult-defined ‘bullying’ connotes childishness or immaturity to teenagers.”

In the academic article the researchers note that “Understanding how “drama” operates is necessary to recognize teens’ own defenses against the realities of aggression, gossip, and bullying in networked publics. Most teens do not recognize themselves in the “bullying” rhetoric used by parents, teen advocates, and mental health professionals.”

An important point when we’re trying to communicate with teens on how to stay safe and sane online.

Link to New Yorker piece ‘The Story of a Suicide’.
Link to study on online teen ‘drama’.

5 thoughts on “Online teen drama”

  1. I hear one pastor said, beware of your words and hurtful jokes you will regret it if somebody take it seriously and you may end up regretting what you did. hurtful words are more painful than a punch. How much more if bullying and harassment is done online. Millions of people will see it and talk about it. In no time, your dead. That is why I believe that while we have freedom of expression, we should also be responsible of our actions.

  2. fascinating.

    As the son of a upper-working class family (dad son of mill-girl, he rose to be a qualified mechanical engineer) from the NW of England, I have a different take on this. Northerners (of the normal, not posh variety and not in so-called caring professions) have ‘banter’. This applies equally to males and females. Yes, at the edges it can slide into bullying, or ‘taking down a peg’ and similar deprecated activity, but it is at the core of a bluff, rubbing along with folk, taking a joke, easy social mixing that makes few serious derogatory judgements about people whilst ruthlessly ‘ripping the piss’ on ocassion. And it is particularily present in the teens, until parenthood arrives, when it wanes a little. It’s all about your mates, and you have a lot more mates than you think, as I discovered at the age of 17 when threatened in a pub. When the confrontation ebbed away, I discovered 5 or 6 blokes from my class, lined up behind me, ready to rumble.

    I think this is what is being over-egged, misinterpreted and judged here. Maybe we need some anthropologists on the case. Some more ethnography and less sociology. Pah, sociologists.

  3. and can I single out what may be the only voxpop in the piece: ”because it doesn’t help them manage the situation within their social circle.“

    Exactly. This is about social animals developing. Not everything can be made better by ‘caring professionals’.

  4. None of which is a crique of the ever-excellent mind-hacks, nor is it excusing the relatively rare and tragic results of extreme homophobic bullying. Most teens didn’t riot(over 95%)in the UK this summer, most teens don’t bully, all teens have to learn to cope with the hurly-burly of life.

  5. I really don’t know what to make of that article? having read it in full…inexplicable. Deeply unsettling, from the exact personal digital paper trails through to the authors assumed comments. Cause célèbre would be the term

    @plexity: They’re two middle class immigrants(generations aside) who both look down their noses at ‘working class’ be it upper or not, I’d hardly see them duking it out in a pub plexity, mores the pity. It’s actually a feature in North Americas inglorious history…the greasy pole and all that. I’d second your ‘the ever-excellent mind-hacks'(I arrived on that nebulous article by way of Ed Yong ‘I’ve got your missing links right here’ but have read mind-hacks before, have you bookmarked, enjoy your articles and am perfectly aware I’m stoking your ego)

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