Thursday, April 02, 2009

Teens Can Make Anything Evil

Fosco, like pretty much everyone else, is on Facebook. Indeed he feels a small measure of pride that, as a Harvard alum, Fosco can remember when "The Facebook" was actually a book (that's what the annual "Freshman Register" was informally called--it was the way that you got to know all of your freshman classmates, before you even arrived at school). Interestingly enough, copies of these old Freshman Facebooks can go for a pretty penny online. I'm sure Fosco's year will eventually be worth even more when one of his classmates becomes President or Pope or Bono.

But as Facebook the website continues its relentless incursion into all of our personal lives, some new questions are coming to the fore. Like:

  • What's the best way to de-friend someone? (I'm looking at you, Linda.)
  • Should I "friend" my boss/advisor?
  • How many ex-boyfriends/girlfriends on my Friendlist is too many?
  • If I were a Supreme Court Justice, which one would I be?
And, perhaps most importantly: "Should my teenager use Facebook?"

As far as Fosco is concerned, the answer to any question that begins "Should my teenager use..." is always NO. But I guess not all parents are as well-prepared as Fosco. And for those parents who want to consider the possibility that their teens should use Facebook, Fosco would like to recommend this article on HuffPo. The author, Kari Henley, is interested in how the cognitive development of teens may prevent them from using Facebook in an appropriate way. She tells this story:
Jill is a mother of three children ages 10-14, who are fully into the digital generation. All have iPods, computers, Wii games, cell phones, and are addicted to Facebook. They are like most middle school aged kids in America today who have their hands on toys most adults only recently acquired themselves.

One day, a call came from the principal informing Jill and her husband, their middle daughter was being given in-school suspension for creating a Facebook group used to make fun of another student. Called something like, "Eric is a Hairy Beast," the group quickly filled with loads of kids making fun of a quiet Armenian boy, uploading cell phone pictures of him and becoming more brazen by the day.
While this story may seem upsetting, Fosco would like to note that he has actually seen the pictures of Eric the Armenian boy and Eric is indeed a hairy beast (in fact, Fosco has been a member of this group for months).

But seriously, why would supposedly "good kids" do this kind of thing on Facebook? The suggestion is that it has something to do with adolescent brain development, or lack thereof:
Dr. Jay Giedd is the chief of brain imaging in the child psychiatry branch at the National Institute of Mental Health, and an expert in adolescent brain development. His research shows the brain is not fully developed at age 12 as was believed, but reaches full maturity in our mid-twenties. Adolescence is a time of profound brain development, surpassing that of toddlers. The area of the pre-frontal cortex develops last, which is in charge of higher reasoning and understanding consequences. The emotional centers of the brain that control happiness, fear, anger and sadness often over-compensate, and can be 50% stronger during adolescence.
Which means, as anyone who has ever met one knows, teenagers have terrible judgment--all because of their brains. And so, while teenagers certainly have the ability to recognize how repulsively hairy Eric the Armenian Boy is, they tend to lack the ability to understand why it's a bad idea to talk about it on Facebook.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It makes some sense, if they are now saying that the 40's are the new 20's, why not just add that the mid-20's are the new children?