Musicians’ view of teen social networking

Come enter, here's my world
Closed off from pain and cold
Come enter, come inside
A secret place of light
'Cause in this world I'm rid of you,
You can't get through

Those are lyrics from a song entitled "Digital Deceit" by Netherlands-based band After Forever. A rare artistic depiction of teen social networking, it's part of a concept CD "about a family with serious issues," wrote researcher Daniel Cardoso in an email to me. Most of this song represents the voice of the daughter, who is "taking refuge in her Internet persona," said Daniel. You may recognize the other voice in the lyrics, that of the adults around her….

Stop dreaming and wake up
Your silly world is not what's real
This world of fake friends
and computers – digital deceit

What struck me immediately about the teenage voice in this song is how it resonates with the latest research in the US about the teens who are most vulnerable to exploitation on the social Web (see "Profile of a teen online victim"): Online "I'm beautiful and all my friends would say the same … the queen of her own world … another me, not someone insecure and strange / My father's will in here, it doesn't mean a thing / And I don't fear his violent rage" (here's a video of After Forever performing the song in YouTube). By the end of the story, however, this teen sounds too grounded to move toward victimization (for more on this CD as a whole, click to this sidebar on my server).

I was fortunate to have met Daniel Cardoso at an online-safety conference held in Lisbon last week by (Portugal's pioneering online-safety organization) and sponsored by Portugal Telecom. The conference was an unprecedented opportunity for the country's biggest Internet provider, children's advocates, research community, law enforcement, and government to compare notes on an important subject. Daniel is a researcher as well as Webmaster for EUKidsOnline Portugal, directed by Prof. Cristina Ponte at the New University of Lisbon (EU Kids Online is a huge ongoing research project involving research in 24 countries).

If you're wondering about After Forever's music, the band itself says it's hard to categorize. In its MySpace profile, it says it "has never pinned itself strictly on any given style. They have the obvious combination of metal and classical themes, but can just as easily implement rock, pop, industrial and progressive styles into their songs." The songs I've heard on this concept CD (including this other, climactic, one), sound like rock opera to me, maybe partly because they're part of a story.

Daniel kindly sent more info on the CD – Invisible Circles – as a whole. You'll find it and lyrics of "Digital Deceit" here.

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