Growing up in a culture of fear: from Columbine to banning of MySpace

Great, great post by danah boyd on how we alienate youth culture and make it even harder for them to grow up.

We fear our children. We fear what they might do in collectives. We ban them from public spaces (see Mall won’t allow teens without parents). We think that we are protecting them, but we’re really feeding the media industry and guaranteeing the need for uncountable psychiatrists. Imagine the weight that this places on youth culture. Imagine what it’s like to grow up under media scrutiny, parental protectionism and formalist educational systems.

The effects are devastating. Ever wonder why young people don’t vote? Why should they? They’ve been told for so damn long that their voices don’t matter, have been the victims of an oppressive regime. What is motivating about that? How do you learn to use your voice to change power when you’ve been surveilled and controlled for so long, when you’ve made an art out of subversive engagement with peers? When you’ve been put on drugs like Strattera that control your behavior to the point of utter obedience?

We need to break this culture of fear in order to have a healthy society. Please, please… whenever you interact with youth culture (whether you’re a parent, a schoolteacher or a cafe owner), learn from them. Hear them from their perspectives and stop trying to project your own fears onto them. Allow them to flourish by giving them the freedom to make sense of their identity and culture.