Behind Their Screens What Teens Are Facing (and Adults Are Missing)by Weinstein, Emily; James, Carrie
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What are teens actually doing on their smartphones? Contrary to many adults’ assumptions, they are not simply “addicted” to their screens, oblivious to the afterlife of what they post, or missing out on personal connection. They are just trying to navigate a networked world. In Behind Their Screens, Emily Weinstein and Carrie James, Harvard researchers who are experts on teens and technology, explore the complexities that teens face in their digital lives, and suggest that many adult efforts to help—“Get off your phone!” “Just don’t sext!”—fall short.
Weinstein and James warn against a single-minded focus by adults on “screen time.” Teens worry about dependence on their devices, but disconnecting means being out of the loop socially, with absence perceived as rudeness or even a failure to be there for a struggling friend. Drawing on a multiyear project that surveyed more than 3,500 teens, the authors explain that young people need empathy, not exasperated eye-rolling. Adults should understand the complicated nature of teens’ online life rather than issue commands, and they should normalize—let teens know that their challenges are shared by others—without minimizing or dismissing. Along the way, Weinstein and James describe different kinds of sexting and explain such phenomena as watermarking nudes, comparison quicksand, digital pacifiers, and collecting receipts. Behind Their Screens offers essential reading for any adult who cares about supporting teens in an online world.
Carrie James is a Principal Investigator at Project Zero and the author of Disconnected: Youth, New Media, and the Ethics Gap (MIT Press).
Weinstein’s and James’s work has been covered in Time, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, and the Atlantic, and they are sought-after speakers on teens and technology.
Table of Contents
1 Digital Worries in Context 15
2 The Pull of the Screen 31
3 Friendship Dilemmas 53
4 Small Slights, Big Fights 73
5 Nude (and Why Teens Sext when they Know the Risks) 93
6 The Political is (Inter)personal--and Vice Versa 115
7 Digital Footprints that (May) Last a Lifetime 137
Conclusion: The Digital Agency Argument 161
Appendix: The Research Behind Behind Their Screens 179
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