Clive Thompson at Wired has a piece debunking the notion that the time kids are spending so much time on social media that they are losing their social skills:
If kids can’t socialize, who should parents blame? Simple: They should blame themselves. This is the argument advanced in It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, by Microsoft researcher Danah Boyd. Boyd—full disclosure, a friend of mine—has spent a decade interviewing hundreds of teens about their online lives.
What she has found, over and over, is that teenagers would love to socialize face-to-face with their friends. But adult society won’t let them. “Teens aren’t addicted to social media. They’re addicted to each other,” Boyd says. “They’re not allowed to hang out the way you and I did, so they’ve moved it online.”
Kids live in suburbs with very few gathering areas, and the areas that exist aren’t within walking distance of most houses. So you need some kind of wheeled transportation to get to those places. But it’s “too dangerous” for the kids to ride their bikes by themselves, so they’re isolated in their big suburban houses every day after school. In the late 90’s, they used AOL instant messenger, then they transitioned to texting, then Facebook, then Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram. They don’t use those tools because they are some kind of fucked-up devil spawn, but because their opportunities to socialize are limited by car culture and fear.