Is Kids' Openness About Risky Activities Good Or Bad?

from the just-wondering... dept

There's a moral panic style study being released that claims that many teens "display risky behavior" on MySpace. Of course, when you look at the details, it's not quite so fear-inducing at all. Basically, some kids talk about drinking, drugs and sex online. That's nothing new. But the way this study is being presented, it makes it sound as if the risky behavior is the fact that kids are talking about this stuff. The article doesn't talk about the actual drugs and sex so much as the talking about it, as if that's the problem:
Many young people who use social networking sites such as News Corp's MySpace do not realize how public they are and may be opening themselves to risks
That seems backwards to me. It would seem a lot better to find out that kids are actually talking about this stuff openly, where they can (hopefully) get good advice to keep themselves safe, rather than keeping quiet and experimenting totally in secret. Yes, there definitely are some risks involved in talking about this stuff publicly. For years, we've wondered what will happen when the MySpace generation runs for office, and we've also seen how social networking profiles can be used against an individual in pursuing a career. Of course, there are some who wonder if this widespread openness will lead to a more accepting population. For example the fact that Barack Obama used cocaine at one point in his life was barely mentioned at all during the campaign -- in part because he had openly admitted to it years earlier. It's only the surprise "gotcha" type info that seems to cause real problems.

That isn't to say that kids today shouldn't be at least aware of the potential consequences of over-sharing information, but I worry that a study like the one being discussed here leads to eventual misplaced blame and worries over a problem that might not be nearly as significant as some make it out to be.

Filed Under: children, moral panic, openness, studies


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Jan 2009 @ 7:40pm

    These kinds of studies are really little more than cases of fear mongering combined with extreme cluelessness. I went to 4 grammar schools and 2 high schools when I was a kid and I can tell you that kids today are not significantly different from the kids 20-30 years ago. I remember being in 4th grade and coming across a couple 6th graders kissing in the bushes behind the school. I knew plenty of HSers and even some Jr. HSers that drank, did weed (or occasionally harder drugs), engaged in sexual activities, or smoked (hell I smoked for three months when I was 15 until I realized it was dumb). The only difference now is that technology has allowed more people to realize these activities are not isolated or infrequent activities, but are in fact rather commonplace. Of course people who really need something like the internet to tell them that were never really paying attention anyways, so it's no surprise to me, that these fact are a surprise to them.

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