Generational Use of New Media

This book looks at a number of studies across Europe, exploring assumptions about the ways that older and younger generations access the web, including addressing Prensky’s notion of “digital natives”… and the idea that we group all young/old people into the same bracket – when entitlement and access do not necessarily mean a desire to go online. As they say:

We are increasingly surrounded by information and no longer surf the net but live in the web.

Academics debate how much traditional structures of authority have been challenged by the new technology – particularly authority within the family, with some arguing that we have moved away from authoritarian households, with increasing negotiation between parent/child, and therefore increasing autonomy for the child – whilst others argue that children are increasingly protected and therefore more restricted in their everyday lives.

With every new technology, new fears are raised, but two new fears are making it more difficult for parents to “control” what their children are involved in – particularly the growth of bedroom/mobile cultures (encouraging unsupervised use), and a feeling that the particular apps that children engage with are not those that their parents understand. As they look at this research, the following emerges:

… what emerges is a fairly positive evaluation that does not in itself prove that less authoritan parenting is taking place but does suggest reasonably good relationships between parents and children, where mediation is by and large acceptable. Parental mediation can at worst limit the activities of some children, but for most is not too onerous. Many children appear to value that parental engagement, saying it helps, and by and large they are willing to listen to it (at least some of the time). Although there are age differences as has been consistently trust across all these results, this applies to many of the older children as well. (p25)

Most children thought that their parents had the balance about right, with some wishing for a bit more interest/engagement! Studies in 2001 identified ‘paranoid parenting’ – fears of the “stranger in the midst” which has continued to this day.

With regard to ‘digital natives’: Oblinger & Oblinger (2005) argue that ‘they don’t think in terms of technology; they think in terms of the activity technology enables.’ (used subconsciously & routinely). No one working with those aged 15-25 (in universities) would argue that there is an increased USE of technologies, but what does need to be questioned is whether there’s a greater ‘proficiency’ in the use of such technology. Evidence doesn’t indicate that it is so, and leaving those skills to be gained by osmosis leaves an even more exclusive society where the tech skilled lead those who haven’t been given help/training in getting online. Rowlands & Fieldhouse (2008) identify in particular that speed means little time i spent evaluating information, have a poor understanding of their information needs which leads to poor search habits, they find it difficult to assess relevance (printing off pages without looking), and have unsophisticated mental maps – not seeing is collection of networked resources from different providers.

Is this your experience?

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