Youth are not creating digital publics to scare parents – they are doing so because they need youth space, a place to gather and see and be seen by peers. Publics are critical to the coming-of-age narrative because they provide the framework for building cultural knowledge. Restricting youth to controlled spaces typically results in rebellion and the destruction of trust. Of course, for a parent, letting go and allowing youth to navigate risks is terrifying. Unfortunately, it’s necessary for youth to mature.
Youth are in constant need of spaces, both physical and virtual, and it is the practice of western societies to generally deny them those spaces for reasons of trust and control. I’m interested in how youth are creating space despite the efforts of adults to prevent them for having it.
I’ve written before about the Aboriginal youth I know who are a part of Building Our Legacy Together, a network dedicated to staying connected, supporting each other’s work for bringing a new community-based youth leadership voice to Aboriginal communities in BC. These guys are meeting online all the time, mostly using MSN and other forums and through various websites and message boards.
Any one working with youth networks needs to know how these modes work and needs to find ways of supporting and participating with them.