Young People and Digital and Mobile Media
IN THE PREVIOUS SECTION of this book we considered several cautionary tales related to digital and mobile media in contemporary family life. We reviewed stories of young people who engaged in cyberbullying, limitless gaming, and excessive Facebook use, and we considered teen experiences with Internet predators and sexting—all practices that have received a great deal of attention in the news media because they represent lamentable ways that digital and mobile media have amplified some of the troubling aspects of teen life. We also discussed under- and overinvolved parents, many of whom acted out of anxieties about digital and mobile media, and who displayed varying degrees of warmth in their approaches to restricting their older children’s experiences with media. But one thing we have not yet addressed is the question of why these media have become so central to the experiences of growing up in contemporary Western societies. Understanding the perspective of young people is an important part of parents’ relationships with their children. In this chapter and the one that follows it, therefore, we turn to the stories that young people themselves tell of how these media have become embedded in their lives and experiences. We see how various communication media play a role in providing mythic, pragmatic, and symbolic cultural resources for young people as they strive for recognition, connection, and meaning. But first we begin with a story that reminds us that young people and their parents often view these media quite differently.
In sixteen-year-old Steph Kline’s home, the family’s laptop sits at the back of the formal living room, near the kitchen and family room.1 It now resides there rather than in Steph’s room, Steph’s father, Fred, explains, because he and his wife, Isabella, want to monitor her Internet use. “She