It’s simple – they spend time “hanging out, messing around and geeking out.”
danah boyd, who came over for a Webstock mini a little while back, was one of a team led by Mimi Ito and funded by “Genius Grant” providers MacArthur Foundation. They conducted a 3 year study, spent $3.3 million, did 22 case studies, interviewed over 800 people and spent over 5000 hours “observing” online behaviour.
Hanging out (facebook, myspace, gaming and the like) is not seen by parents as “good”, but it turns out that it is. Kids learn socialisation skills and develop interests and tastes. It’s akin to the phone calls and whispered conversations of old, and is all part of growing up.
Messing around is when you start wondering how things work and tinkering. It’s about creating your own videos, playing with hardware, tweaking games and so forth.
Geeking out is really getting into the tech, the media creation and so on. It’s cool, and age is irrelevant when you are deep diving into a topic. You get your information from peers – us old folk are not the source of knowledge any more (if we ever were) but we are useful for setting learning goals and functioning as “role models and more experienced peers.”