It's not uncommon for parents to find something their child posted online that seems completely out of place. But danah boyd, social media scholar and author of "It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens," says Facebook and Twitter are just the newest outlets for teenagers to experiment with who they want to be.
"These identities that young people are working out, they're trying to find independence. They're trying to figure out what works," boyd said. "They'll try something on and it doesn't click, it doesn't give them the reaction they want from their peers, so they'll shift a little bit, try to look cool in a different way."
This kind of experimentation is essential for teenagers because the only parts of their lives they can control is their status, reputation and popularity among their peers, boyd told HuffPost Live's Ahmed Shihab-Eldin. But trying on different identities is by no means a new phenomenon.
"We often rebelled, and parents never caught on. Now you actually have traces of it, and parents can see it and they kind of flip out, even when they themselves did it," she said.
See the full HuffPost Live conversation with danah boyd below.