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A Companion to New Media Dynamics by Axel Bruns, Jean Burgess, John Hartley

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Chapter 33

Young People Online

Lelia Green and Danielle Brady

Introduction

“Teenagers,” “older children,” “young adults”: Western society positions youngsters of high-school age on the cusp between childhood and adulthood, between dependency and responsibility. Like many subjects positioned on a culturally defined boundary, they embody the tension between “purity” and “danger” (Douglas 1966): between innocence, to be protected; and risk, to be curtailed and managed. The innocence is associated with the impressionability and vulnerability of the child, while the risk is inherent in the precocious individual with adult desires, passions, and strength but lacking the experience and wisdom to temper these in ways that conform to social expectations (Fionda 2001, 2005). In this context it is unsurprising that the foundational text for the extensive literature on moral panics (Cohen 1980) concerns itself with the analysis of a specific 1960s youth subculture, Mods and Rockers, and with the societal responses to this threat to British social values.

As well as embodying the transitional phase between child and adult, teenagers are often voracious communicators and many “everyday innovators” (Haddon et al. 2005; Green 2010: 10) are young people experimenting with ways of doing things differently. This was the case with the Finnish teenagers credited with popularizing texting in the late 1990s (Kasesneimi and Rautiainen 2002). Here the stated aim was not only to communicate with peers but ...

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