Author assures that Gen-Y's e-obsession is perfectly healthy
By Richard Koman
Anastasia Goodstein is the author of the just-released Totally Wired: What Teens and Tweens are Really Doing Online (St. Martin's Griffin; $13.95), a book really aimed at those parents and teachers who are trying to make sense of kids' use of technology and how to approach that use. She appears April 12 at Borders.
First and foremost, Goodstein wants to disabuse people of the notion that kids on MySpace are in perpetual danger of being abducted by sex abusers and rapists. "There's this fixation on 'stranger danger' and predators online," Goodstein says by phone from her San Francisco office. "Naturally, the media converge on events when they do happen, with programs like 'To Catch a Predator.' As a parent, that's going to scare the crap out of you.
"The reality is, the number of children abducted by strangers they meet online is extremely low--much lower than children abducted by people they know. Yes, they're there, but teens, especially older teens, are pretty savvy about online and are more interested in talking to friends and friends of friends. It's more of a risk for younger kids and tweens."
Enough bad news. Overall, Goodstein assures that the tween and teen fascination with the Net is a "positive thing, a democratizing influence." Furthermore, she says, "The people teens are communicating with online are the people they communicate with face to face. A recent study found that teens find they have deeper relationships with the people they have both online and offline communications with. Kids will say things online they can't say face to face. Boys are more willing to flirt with girls in IM than they would be in person. They're getting immediate validation in their online communications."
Every generation has its new thing, same as the old thing. "The reassuring news is what they're doing online is what they've always done offline," Goodstein laughs. "They're figuring out who they are, socializing, getting validation. The motivations are the same. The big difference is the public nature of this. They're more comfortable living their lives publicly. Part of it is that teens are impulsive and unaware of the ramifications of their actions and part of it is our exhibitionistic culture. As young people realize that employers and college recruiters Google people, hopefully they'll scale that back or at least make their profiles private."
Anastasia Goodstein reads from and discusses Totally Wired on Thursday, April 12, at Borders Books and Music. 588 Francisco Blvd. W., San Rafael. 7pm. Free. 415.454.1400.
Send a letter to the editor about this story.