Friday, October 28, 2005

AoIR6: Keynote - Sonia Livingstone

This post was originally published on 28 October at Social Simulation

Sonia Livingstone
Children, young people and the internet

Young people as pivot point of change – how is their use responsible for how we use the internet

What’s new in change? Follow old media to new media: moral anxieties follow from old to new. New media supplements rather than displaces; familiar norms reasserted, connect is crucial. – all define the way in which internet is used in everyday life.

There are changes. Practices recombined, reconfigured, re-mediated; social spheres blurred, undermining hierarchies (leisure and education become blurred – at home and at school; gender divides, public-private divides); from one-to-many, mass communication to ubiquitous, interactive network communication.

This research used a Child-centred approach, rather than tech- or adult-centred (opposed to those priorities)

What’s happening to childhood?
Societal changes: youth is an extended period. Dependence for longer than before. Becoming consumers younger, sexually aware and interested ever younger. From Victorian (hierarchical) family to democratic family (changes in interpersonal roles). Hierarchies of authority are being re-thought. Childhood lived out of doors to a childhood lived indoors because outdoors is “unsafe”. (mobile phone techs are helping to re-think that)

Media-rich home; individualised (everyone in his or her own space rather than a communal space). The media is a place for agency and experimentation. This fits with contemplations of youth culture – hierarchical, democratic, created opportunity

The child: singular, universal; developing, becoming; vulnerable, innocent; passive, acted upon; needs segregation, protection

Media and internet studies looks at the sociological elements of “childhood”: diverse, context-dependent; a person in his/her own right; needs inclusion, recognition (a space developed with him or her in mind); skilled, sophisticated; active, agent.

The child is the centre – in what ways are children actors? They create, subvert, explore, network.

UK Children Go Online Project
9-19 yo, 1500, plus parallel survey of their parents

¾ use internet at home, 92% at school, 98% have accessed
8% access internet via games console

are they pioneers? 90% use the Internet for schoolwork – 21% (of kids age 12+) plagiarise

1/3 have set up own website (1/3 of them have never put it online; for a school project 45%, 1/3 doing creative things); of those 2/3 who haven’t, ½ don’t know how to

civic interests: when get to such a site, “just check it out” – no interaction. Don’t discuss with friends (56%). Why don’t visit? 80% not interested.

Taking the first steps towards creativity and engagement, but not pursuing.

In last week, 39% visited 1-4 websites: google, football, music group, fave tv show. Perhaps there is creativity (e.g., wiccan), but mostly branded.

Who makes more rich/complex use of internet? Older teens, boys, those with better quality of access, greater online skills/self-efficacy – skills and interest breeds skills and interest, but the evidence suggests that there’s not a lot of interaction

Dialogue box = “adult voice” that says what can and can’t do (for adults too!)

Kids are more expert, children report being able to do more than their parents. Can find information, but fewer than half set up IM, 12% can download music, just over a third can set up email

Knowing how to look for information but understanding or engaging with it isn’t a simple element.
Takes a while for kids to be critical about content. Go and Google – not being taught critical literacy. (e.g., racist Martin L King website - at top of google for a while – not aware that the content is racist)


New child-centred model? Child at centre, but arrows point inward from parent, state, school and commerce.

State
For young people, government is deaf. Real contrast between producer’s perceptions and intentions and participant’s. From delivering information (rather than “participation”, which in these spaces and political contexts is “for adults”) how to participate (e.g., school council rates above websites) and difficulty to elicit who the author of the site is.

Commerce
Top ten sites: music, tv, football. These sites are designed to be a walled garden. Whole design is to keep you there. Branding more important than content. Disconnect between questions kids have in their heads and the design of information-seeking and concept of info web. (e..g, what’s friendlier than a Russian hamster? In ask jeeves, gets search offers for tourist information on Russia)

Parents
Significant anxiety about kids’ use of internet, which limits their critical exploration of the space
Parents checking email would be like going through drawers in room and checking pockets when they came home from school. Parental monitoring interpreted as spying.

Opportunities and risks online go hand in hand

School
More traditional use of internet (curriculum-based) than early hopes as a space for learning new literacies.
Erratic, disillusioning and disengaging way security features are experienced by kids (bbc banned but child prostitution article not)
D. Buckingham = curricularisation of leisure time

even with second child-centred model, the original model works, from subversion (privacy), exploration, networking (peer to peer, chat), creativity.

What kind of knowledge does it require to get actively involved with the systemic institutions?

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