cover image Behind Their Screens: What Teens Are Facing (and Adults are Missing)

Behind Their Screens: What Teens Are Facing (and Adults are Missing)

Emily Weinstein and Carrie James. MIT, $27.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-0-262-04735-7

Weinstein and James (Disconnected), researchers who have spent a decade studying teens’ digital lives at Harvard’s Project Zero, reveal the gaps between adults’ assumptions and what teens are actually up to in this fascinating deep dive into online behavior. The reality of “growing up digital,” they argue, is vastly different from the alarmist headlines; while there are apps “designed to hijack focus,” for instance, it’s a “mistake” to view being glued to one’s screen “as evidence that teens don’t care about connection.” Group chats, meanwhile, haven’t eroded “the age-old qualities that make or break friendships,” and sexting can be “consensual and wanted by both parties” or “pressured or even actively coerced,” which is important for parents to grasp so the issue is met with more understanding than just the reflexive instruction to not do it. The authors round things out with a call for “digital agency,” which can be established by “creating space for young people to explore true tensions and dilemmas” in classrooms and at home. The authors’ research is impressive, and the “Teens Want Adults to Know” sections at the end of each chapter add some nice perspective. Parents and educators losing sleep over what’s happening online would do well to give this a look. (Aug.)