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May 20, 2007

Ten (Nine) Questions with Anastasia Goodstein

Totally Wired.jpg

Anastasia Goodstein covers Generation Y in her blog YPulse. She has worked for Current TV, AOL, and Oxygen TV. She recently published a book that will help you understand the online activities of young people called Totally Wired: What Teens and Tweens Are Really Doing Online.

  1. Question: How does being totally wired change being a teenager?

    Answer: Teenagers are connected to each other, lots more information, and media 24/7. They need parents and adults to set limits on this use and act as guides as to what’s credible as well as to help them be more media and marketing savvy. It means that there is a new way of communicating that adds an element of distance, the possibility of anonymity, and the reality of much of this communication is public or can easily be made public.

  2. Question: What are the positives and negatives of this development?

    On the positive side, teens can say more digitally than they might feel comfortable with sharing in person. On the negative side, you can be meaner when you can’t see that person’s reaction—this has led to the new term cyberbullying. People should check out Cyberbully 411.

    Teens are learning, often by making mistakes, that what they post online can be seen by more than just their friends. They are learning that what they post online or what others post about them, can be hard to take down, and that it can spread virally to lots more people. All of the impulses, motivations, desires, and feelings around being a teen haven’t changed, but technology definitely raises new issues and challenges we all have to deal with.

  3. Question: Why are MySpace and the like so popular?

    Answer: Teens put the “social” in social networking. Being a teen is all about individuating from your parents and spending more time with peers. We did this by hanging out in malls, parks and parking lots. Today’s teens are much more scheduled and structured, and today’s parents are more reluctant to let teens hang out unsupervised.

    MySpace and other social networks have become virtual hangouts where teens can socialize without parental supervision. Teens also love decorating their MySpace pages as a way to tell the world who they are (at this week!) and find other teens who may be interested in the same things: for example, cars, video games, animal rights, and goth fashion.

    Teens love being able to communicate to all of their friends with a bulletin and getting feedback through comments. Plus we all know high school is all about social status—now it can be quantified, exaggerated or minimized with the number of friends on your MySpace profile.

  4. Question: Is banning MySpace and other social networks by schools a smart thing?

    Answer: I advocate educating as opposed to legislating. Schools should bust teens for using MySpace when they shouldn’t be but don’t block it. Educators have a role to play in teaching teens when it’s appropriate to be on MySpace and when it isn’t, as well as what is kosher to post and what isn’t—and what it means to maintain a public profile.

    Blocking technology doesn’t teach teens how to use technology safely and ethically or how to think critically about the sites they visit. For many low income teens who still may not have computers or access to the internet at home, a school library, public library or federally funded after school program are often the only places they can participate in Web 2.0 at all. If we block and ban these sites, a whole population will miss out on what their peers have access to at home.

  5. Question: Is the danger of online predators exaggerated?

    Answer: Yes. They’re out there, for sure, and parents should be talking to tweens and teens about how to be smart and safe online, i.e. don’t talk to strangers – even those who say they are teens, don’t post too much personal information, etc. But the reality is that more kids are abducted by someone they know, usually an estranged parent or relative than by strangers.

    Kids and tweens are much more vulnerable to being manipulated by online predators and are usually experimenting with identity themselves at that age, so they may venture into an adult chat room and say they are 25 “just for fun.” Older teens mostly just ignore creepy adults, reject them as friends or tell them to go away. They’re there to socialize with their friends, most of whom they already have relationships with offline.

  6. Question: Why do teenagers blog?

    Answer: Some teens still keep written diaries with their deepest thoughts scrawled in them hidden away in their bedrooms, but this generation is more comfortable putting that stuff out there for their friends—and often the general public—to read.

    Most teens blog as yet another way to communicate with their friends. They are more about the commenting back and forth and keeping the conversation going than writing lengthy blog posts. That said, there are lots of teens who post poetry and photographs and who actively journal on their blogs as well as teens who blog about specific topics like tech or music. Check out this teen-run blog network: Random Shapes.

  7. Question: What is healthy sexual behavior for a teenager?

    Answer: That’s a tricky question. I believe in teaching teens about human sexuality with a more holistic and developmental approach vs. focusing on just whether or not to have it and what kinds of diseases you can catch if you do.

    A really positive and accurate site for teens about sex is Sex, etc. Teens meeting strangers online to “hook up” is rare—it does happen, but I would venture to say it’s a teen who is already engaging in other kinds of high-risk behaviors. Is “cybering” healthy sexual activity? I’m not a psychologist, but it’s definitely safe sex!

  8. Question: What big brands truly “get” teenagers?

    Answer: I’m not saying this just because you worked with Apple, but ever since the iPod launched, teens love Apple as much as any Mac fanatic. And it’s not that Apple is marketing to them specifically, they just have created great products and design that teens are crazy about. While MTV has ceded some of its trendsetting dominance to the internet, you can’t underestimate their understanding of teens and how to reach them. Other brands teens love: Nike, Toyota Scion, Xbox, Sony PS2/PSP, and Nintendo.

  9. Question: Coming back to MySpace, can one make the case that MySpace teaches computer and writing skills?

    Answer: Any time teens are playing around with language, whether it’s coming up with a new acronym for IM or a text message, it’s a good thing—even if you have to tell them not to use shorthand in their English papers. Writing on a MySpace blog, writing messages to each other, or commenting all involves writing and language skills.

    It’s not the same as structured writing in school, but any time teens are expressing themselves through the written or typed word, it can only help their writing skills. And being on MySpace definitely teaches computer skills—teens spend hours on layouts for the pages, embedding video, photos and widgets and learning how to navigate and use new sites. They have a better understanding of Web 2.0 than many adults, including their parents and teachers!

You can also read an excerpt and listen to her radio interview

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Comments

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Wow..

I'm sorry to say,

But you adults are completely oblivious these days.

By the way, I'm Alex, and I'm 15

Let me know if you have any questions :)

If anything Myspace encourages less interest in grammar and more in communication. It would be nice for it to have an educational value. Tell will tell.

Lend me a dollar folks... Shameless plug :-)

As a parent of 3 young men--a preteen and 2 teens, I appreciate you doing this interview! Technology is here to stay but it doesn't mean we have to panic about what kids are doing either. The best thing is to get informed!

I got a myspace account the same time as my kids..and they know it. It's unbelievable what some kids say on it--definitely starts discussions here at this house!

One of the best ways to deal with/keep up with kids though is the old-fashioned spend time and talk approach. Take them out to breakfast, take a walk, go kayaking or biking--anything where you are alone with them, away from everything, and then relax and "hang out". Respect their thoughts and opinions and let the conversations take off! You still won't know everything they're doing/thinking but the time you spend will assure them that you're always there.

Brian, I've talked lots of parents who let their 14 or 15-year old have a MySpace account as long as you can be their friend or check in on it periodically. It's a great opportunity to begin the discussion about what's appropriate to include on a public profile...and you may learn more about your teen's life through their blog or photos than they might share in person.

Hi Jeff. In my book, I interview lots of parents of teens and write about how they approach these issues. Some are very strict, some trust their teens to make the right choices about technology and some fall somewhere in between. The book is based on research and interviews and my own insight and experience gained from working with teens and in youth media for most of my career. I write about not being a parent in the introduction and the perspective I feel I do bring to these issues. You can read that online here.

Saw my 14 year old daughter the other day having four MSN messenger conversations going at the same time while also having a cell phone conversation. I agree the best way to manage is to educate. There are so many ways around with tunnel sites etc. This is a real problem at our school.
My 14 year old now wants her own myspace account. What did I say, "wait till you are 15". That gets me through till August.

So Anastasia, how are your teenagers faring following these guidelines? Oh, you don't have teen children? Funny, I kinda figured that. So, any advice for me on how to manage my software development team? Or perhaps you could advise me on raising chile peppers? As long as you're handing out advice...sheesh...

I don't know how they've managed to do it, but the Apple fetish is undeniable. Teens love Apple for some reason. It seems obvious that Apple currently offers the best products, which *may* factor into the decisions teens make... or may not :).

Too bad you didn't continue the conversation with some questions about mobile technology. Myspace is well and good, but for teens, the ability to stay connected with portable devices like cell phones is gaining on the MySpace craze. Every kid I know spends half his day texting. How do you think that this instantaneous and abbreviated mode of communication will affect the way teenagers will expect to communicate and interact with their peers and future colleagues 10-20 years from now?

Nice writeup. I definitely don't think that myspace teaches writing skills. But that may just be me.

Ventrilo Servers

Hi Hooshyar. I was not comparing stranger abductions to abductions by a family member in terms of which one of these is worse. Of course being abducted by a pedophile is every parent's worst nightmare. But the reality is that stranger abductions that happen via the internet are extremely rare. According to research gathered from law enforcement and presented at a panel called Just The Facts About Online Youth Victimization, the reality is that the teens the most at risk for engaging with online predators tend to be teens who have already been physically or sexually victimized or are experiencing major conflict in the home. One of the researchers reported:

- The predominant victims of online sex crimes are not young children -- they are teens
- The crimes do not involve online predators posing as other children to stage an abduction or assault
- Only 5 percent of these cases involve violence
- Only 3 percent involved an abduction
- Only 5 percent of the offenders concealed the fact that they were adults from their victims
- 80 percent were very explicit about their sexual intentions
- These are not violent sex crimes but "criminal seductions" that take advantage of teenage vulnerabilities, teens are lured after lots of online chatting to encounters they know will be sexual in nature
- In 73 percent of these crimes teens have met the perpetrator on multiple occasions and have had multiple sexual encounters
- In half the cases the teens claim they were in love with the adults
- In a quarter of the cases the "victims" ran away from home to be with these adults
- In 2000, of all the statutory rapes reported, only 7 percent happened where the people met online

Any percentage of abductions or violence against children or teens is reprehensible, but it's very important to keep the danger in perspective and not to operate from a place of fear or panic that that is not proportionate to the actual risk.

We should start with learning from our predecesors and from their mistakes. And the fastest way for learning is reading Quotes - a compacted knowledge.

Thank you for the interview, Guy. I am still happy to have read up your book "The Macintosh Way" in 1990 and in a few weeks quit my job. Remember "Ready, Fire, Aim?"

In answer to question #5, I was relieved to learn that Anastasia recognizes that the predators exist. They are gravitated to the teen communities. It used to be outside school yards, malls, swimming pools, etc. Social networking Web sites are ideal venues for them now. They don't even have to show their faces in the initial stage of making contact.

My issue with Anastasia's response is her equating or comparing this unfortunate and ill social behaviour in the society with family disputes and parental conflicts, when she says "... But the reality is that more kids are abducted by someone they know, usually an estranged parent or relative than by strangers." Ouch!! It hurt so much. The notion of relative comparison "more" was on borderline with those idiotic comparisons Guy warns us NOT to say during our VC presentations. As a 49-year-old man, I ain't no teenager, but I would rather be abducted and be taken to another state or place by my sane mother who thinks she could be a better care provider to me than my drunken, abusive, wife-batterer father. How does this sound for a creepy comparison?

Broadcasting these comparisons and equivalencies do not help address the real issue. They are insensitive, reckless and flat ignorant. The reality of a sexual or teen predator who inflicts irreparable damage to an innocent human being for life (if not, killing him/her) is very different from an adult family member, who for a host of domestic disputes, which do not include he or she being a predator, take a kid away -- or, simply abduct the kid. Their intention is not to VIOLATE the teen, although I would like to be on record that I believe their act could still be considered harmful to the welfare of the under-age, but at the end of the day they are not necessarily classified sexual predators by the psychologists in the society.

Let us be more sensitive to this important issue in the online teen media. One of the jobs of the adults is to PROTECT this precious, useful, fun and collective social community for the teens. As adults (OK, I speak for myself here!), we did not have this medium when we were growing up. We will never be able to experience the joy of online social networking at 10, 12, 14, 16 and in the way today's wired generation does, but we surely appreciate it that they can. Let us protect it FOR them so they can continue enjoying it in as safe a space as they can, and, borrowing Guy's words, make this world a better place for all of us.

Please do not turn down the knob of the presence of the predators on teen social networks. One teen hurt, damaged, killed is enough. If it is going to be your child, there is no exaggeration.

Hi PK. It's Anastasia. As for teens moving on to their own blogs, I think any teen who is maintains a blog regularly is certainly a good candidate vs. teens who mostly check in once in a while or are just socializing via blog. I don't think anyone has done research on how many of these teen bloggers there are (teens who have kept blogs regularly for a year or more).

As for marketing -- teens don't like marketing that is disruptive, feels like spam, is from brands they don't already love and offers them nothing of value. So if it's a message coming from a band, TV show or movie they are excited about, they don't mind. But if it's some random marketer trying to be their friend, they'll just click "reject."

Here's an excellent study by Demos, the UK Think Tank, on students and web 2.0 - 'Their Space': http://www.demos.co.uk/publications/theirspace .

It's a longish report, but it's interesting. It has good examples. Here's the abstract:
"Their Space: Education for a digital generation draws on qualitative research with children and polling of parents to counter the myths obscuring the true value of digital media.
Approaching technology from the perspective of children, it tells positive stories about how they use online space to build relationships and create original content. It argues that the skills children are developing through these activities, such as creativity, communication and collaboration, are those that will enable them to succeed in a globally networked, knowledge-driven economy."

will they make a leap from myspace to their own blogs in larger quantities? do they take what they are used to when they move up to the next level(get older) or do they move on to the next things----and how do they feel about marketing and advertising in relation to myspace blogs etc??? -----pk

What a great interview. I have had several conversations in the last couple of weeks about how to reach the younger generation. This interview is a bit of an eye-opener.

I am going through my second experience as a parent of a teenager and it is amazing how different things are in the online world in just a few years.

The thing I've noticed is that the number of aquaintences rather than friends is so much broader because of the ease of contact. I think it broadens the scope of influence in a positive way because I don't think it ultimately becomes a quantity over quality issue.

I just try to keep asking what's new and monitor behaviour that may be influenced by new relationships online.

But mostly I see positives.

Great piece. I was able to meet Anastasia several weeks ago when she came into a class of mine to talk. She has a hell of a history, working for Gore and Oxygen and all of that, but it seems as if her page, YPulse, is doing really well.

Good looks, Guy.

Regarding schools banning MySpace, Facebook, and other social networking sites...

By banning sites such as these, kids will only look in different, possibly more dangerous places to meet new people. I think that the answer comes in educating children to the dangers of the world, rather then sheltering them.

That's what I think

Working for a french TV Production firm preparing the first internetTV channel for Teens, it's a given such a topic is of very high interest for us.
IMHO, the funny part for us entrepreneurs, marketeers, etc. is to create things as both businesswomen/men AND parents. In the one hand, we have to reach the largest audience as possible in order to get financing from investors, advertisers, etc; on the other hand, we want to protect our own children from all that nasty stuff one can find online. Those two " Must " criterias force us to be even more creative than usually with an adult audience.

Hello Guy,

Interesting you couldn't find the question # ten for Teens !

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