If you’ve not heard of Danah Boyd, I’d highly recommend checking out her blog. She is a senior researcher for Microsoft and New York University, and is also a visiting adjunct professor at the University of New South Wales.


It is fair to say that she is one of the world’s pre-eminent researchers and thinkers in the area of teen culture and social networks.


I recently read this paper in which Boyd and another researcher from Microsoft, Alice Marwick, contend that – after six years of research – much of what adults might consider “cyber-bullying” could fall into another category all together.


A category that teens refer to as drama.


It should be said that this research only studied American teenagers, but nevertheless, it does provide an interesting counterpoint.


In their paper they make the point that,


“that the emic use of ‘drama’ allows teens to distance themselves from practices which adults may conceptualize as bullying. As such, they can retain agency – and save face – rather than positioning themselves in a victim narrative. Drama is a gendered process that perpetrates conventional gender norms. It also reflects discourses of celebrity, particularly the mundane interpersonal conflict found on soap operas and reality television.


“For teens, sites like Facebook allow for similar performances in front of engaged audiences. Understanding how “drama” operates is necessary to recognize teens’ own defenses against the realities of aggression, gossip, and bullying in networked publics”


It goes on to say that teens don’t really recognize what cyber-bullying even is.


Which leads me to wonder how effective our attempts to address this actually are, if adults are using a completely different language to that of the kids?

I’d highly recommend reading the paper, and then using it to frame a discussion in your own school, or around your dinner table tonight.


Author: Dan Haesler, he is a teacher, consultant, and speaker at the Mental Health & Wellbeing of Young People seminars He writes for the Sydney Morning Herald and blogs at http://danhaesler.com/ and tweets at @danhaesler