why some teens believe everything the light of their internet-capable device touches is their kingdom
(‘what about that shadowy place over there?’
‘that’s pornhub, simba. you must never go there.’)
we all see plenty of posts about how adults on the internet need to remember that ‘kids’ (read: teens) are around and we must bear that in mind. and these posts are not entirely without merit. It’s important to keep conversations being held with teens carefully teen-friendly and appropriately distant. but the entirety of tumblr and twitter aren’t designed to cater to the safety of minors, and all the adult self-policing in the world won’t make all the kid-unfriendly content go away.
not all teens believe the internet should have gutter bumpers for them, either. but those that do have mystified me for a while … until I started to understand just how pervasive ‘helicopter parenting’ is in parts of American (and UK) culture, and how that affects the adolescents and young adults of today.
a thing worth noting re anyone who pulls the ‘you can’t blacklist on mobile, minors can still see it’ thing to say even tagged content isn’t okay: even if washboard didn’t exist, the tumblr app is rated 17/18+ in app stores. if people under that age get on the app and see things they shouldn’t, that’s on them and their parents/guardians, because they shouldn’t actually have been using the app in the first place.
Honestly, though, the argument has moved past this in some ways. It’s not so much about whether or not teenagers are allowed to see this thing or that thing; it’s a well-known fact that most teenagers will break rules if it suits them and they can get away with it, and internet time is a prime space wherein they can do so.
What’s happened is that some adolescents - teens with parents that are overly protective and crowd their schedules with supervised activities, usually - have been taught by their life experience that:
- all adults in their vicinity are there to protect them. and no wonder: the large majority of their contact with adults will have been as supervisors. Teachers, teacher assistants, instructors, daycare employees, and coaches are all adults who are paid to watch their activity and will be held responsible for the teen’s wellbeing by their guardians. when have they ever spent time with adults who aren’t in charge of making sure they’re safe?
- any space they are in will be designed and maintained with their safety and comfort in mind (no matter how they obtained access). all spaces they enter are specifically meant to revolve around them: schools, sports, playgrounds, etc. The few occasions that they have to enter spaces not meant specifically for them (stores, etc) they are closely watched by adults and any harm they experience will be blamed on adults as a result.
- if they can get access, it must be a space that’s safe for them. Having spent very little of their lives unsupervised, they have always been actively prevented from entering spaces that are not meant for them. They’ve never had to learn to set boundaries for themselves, so they naturally reason that if a boundary is not actively enforced, it must actually be a space they’re meant to enter.
- they are not responsible for themselves. adults around them are responsible for them. if they come to harm, it’s because an adult wasn’t doing their job properly.
for teens of this mindset, ‘18+ ONLY’ warnings are merely a suggestion. Nobody is stopping them, after all, and it has never been their job to stop themselves. and if they can get access, the space is now theirs - because all spaces they are in are theirs. they couldn’t get there unless it was meant for them; that’s how it works, right?
This is why some teens are utterly flabbergasted by the idea that adults on the internet want to interact with fellow adults on an adult level in a space the teen can access. They’re here! That means the space is specifically meant to cater to them! The adults are automatically tasked with their safety! If teens do get into trouble, it’s because the adults weren’t responsible enough! that’s how this has always worked.
And when adults say ‘no, I do not take responsibility for your actions, the internet is full of things that may frighten or harm you and you must set your own boundaries,’ it’s distressing and scary all at once.
(no wonder so many people in their late teens/early 20′s want to still be considered as children.)
EDIT (10/9/2017, 4 days after originally posting): if you’re seeing this post in its original form, I hope you’ll read some of the excellent reblogs disagreeing with it. I think that this post kind of misses the point, which is: some of it may be emotionally invaded teens, but some is just that teens who grew up around this kind of behavior from their parents and adults have learned that they can use their minor status as a kind of power play and thus stand up to demand coddling in fandom spaces.
the culprit that I still maintain is the heart of the problem is the structure of sites like tumblr and twitter, which knocked down all barriers and moderation in fandom and made fandom feel chaotic and uncontrollable. we’re all looking for ways to control our experience in an environment of this kind; some find it by demanding others change what they produce, and others do it by curating what what they see of the production of others. this post doesn’t reflect that well, however, and I apologize for talking down to teenagers who have the agency to think for themselves no matter how their parents behaved.