Iuventa / Výskum mládeže / Data catalogue / 2009 / On-line generation: information, communication and digital participation of the youth

On-line generation: information, communication and digital participation of the youth

Research identification sheet ID: DAYR 027

Authors of the survey: Norbert Vrabec, Infoland, o.z. Nitra
Period of data collection: 15 May 2009 to 30 September 2009
Data collection: In the first part of the survey, data was collected from a sample of 3,350 respondents from among young people aged 13 to 30 years.

Abstract

When constructing our survey, we assumed that most young people predominantly use the internet for the purposes of entertainment. However, that does not exclude, at all, (and outputs of our survey confirmed it), importance of this form of communication in preparation and development of key competences applicable at school and in extra-mural life. With correct direction and sensitive approach to young people, virtual communication can contribute to development of creativity, organising skills, adoption of foreign languages, multicultural dialogue and many other areas of life and socialising of the young people.

Survey of the On-line generation: information, communication and digital participation of the youth in information society and results and recommendations formed by it should serve as a suitable underlying document for better understanding of the young generation and for a systemic approach in preparing youth policies that will be in line with the latest trends in understanding present-day on-line generation.

Goals of the survey

  • The first part of the survey focused on the following aspects (thematic areas) of coexistence of young people with digital media: on-line behaviour, on-line social networks, on-line work with information, on-line safety, on-line learning, on-line participation, on-line identity
  • The second part of the survey focused on internet applications and communication tools created, shared and used by young people. It concerned mapping, categorising and analysing on-line contents: a) young people create themselves on the internet, b) whose addresses are young people.
  • Methodology of the survey and the survey sample
  • In the first stage of the survey, a representative nationwide survey was carried out on a sample of 3,350 respondents. It was made using the on-line questionnaire technique and on-line data collection. Respondents could fill in a questionnaire on a dedicated website.
  • Respondents were asked to take part in the survey in several ways – by direct email, by publishing a link to the on-questionnaire on social networks, as well as on the www.infolandsr.wordpress.com website. Information about the survey was also sent by mail to 160 schools in all regions of Slovakia.
  • The applied technique was selected correctly and its application to the target group provided for a sufficient volume of representative data that we analysed in the later stages of the survey. Techniques applied: quantitative and qualitative audit of websites, observation and analysis of selected internet applications and profiles, desk research of relevant topics.

Conclusions and main findings of the survey

  • On-line generation increasingly spends more and more time in digital world. It is where they make new friends, perform their hobbies, collect, select and distribute information, communicate over various channels, share their ideas, build their identity. The survey has confirmed our initial hypothesis that new media play a key role in everyday lives of young people. Empirical data confirmed they use it mostly for fun, mutual communication and, to a lesser degree, for various informal and mostly unorganised forms of digital participation.
  • Access to high-speed internet is increasingly becoming a common thing in Slovakia. On-line generation needs, on one hand, to be in continuous connection with their age peers on social networks, however, the very connection to the internet is usually made in privacy at home. Survey outputs have indicated that there are still significant deficiencies in innovative forms of utilisation of information and communication technologies at schools and in the process of informal education and leisure activities for the youth.
  • Facebook, MySpace and other social networks are becoming a sort of civil society of teenage culture. They are popular among older students at primary schools and, above all, secondary school and university students. Young people are extraordinarily interested in chatting, which is especially extended among younger teenage categories. Based on our findings, sharing experience with their peers, exchange of information, opinions, development of discussing skills, defending one’s own opinions and logical argumentation are among opportunities arising under these increasingly popular phenomena.
  • Present-day young people mostly prefer visual and audio information. Based on collected data, it is evident that they find profiles and sites with pictures, videos, audio files and various interactive and multimedia features more attractive than text documents.
  • One of priorities of the on-line generation is their interest in being in continuous contact with their age peers. Survey results confirmed another hypothesis according to which new media and on-line communication tools significantly change the way young people get involved in the society and make relations with their age peers. There is a trend we can call digital socialisation. It implies that present-day young people keep contacts on the internet with very vast groups of friends. Extending those lists of contact is an absolutely natural matter for them.
  • Internet communication of young people is not as virtualised as it may seem at the first sight. Most of them find this way of communication a sort of extension and enrichment of existing peer contacts. On the other hand, they show less interest in communication with people outside their own community which can be considered to be sort of negative. Thus, they limit the existing potential of intercultural dialogue offered by means of global internet communication. We also see still not utilised potential in the possibilities of informal language education on social networks.
  • A relatively widespread perception that the Internet contributes to anonymous and impersonal communication among young people was not confirmed. They do not participate in discussions, chatting and activities on social networks anonymously but present appropriate information about themselves there. Impersonal form of communication and use of fake identity was rarely used by 23 % of respondents and occasionally by less than 10 % of survey participants.
  • A range of communication activities used by young people in Slovakia is very wide. Along to direct contact on social networks and chatting programs, they also get involved in discussions, post comments and notes to various topics interesting for them. From the viewpoint of developing key competences, we find it positive that young people are interested in taking part in discussions and expressing their own, often critical viewpoints and opinions on various aspects of social life.
  • Active approach to discussions in digital environment partially doubts relatively widespread image of low interest of young people in public affairs. Almost 40 % of respondents stated they were getting involved in discussions on other websites, blogs and profiles. We consider that fact interesting also from the viewpoint of participation. For the sake of objectiveness it, however, necessary to state, that most such debates and comments do not refer to topics relevant to the whole society but rather fun and lifestyle aspects. However, we hold the opinion that even discussions about such topics (very interesting for the youth) significantly contributes to enhancement of some of their other key competences (ability to discuss and defend their own opinions and standpoints, ability of logical argumentation, assessment of various events and information in the form of their commenting and expressing their own opinions, etc.)
  • There is a serious finding concerning overwhelming low interest of the young people in official on-line presentation of most civic and political activities. As many as 81% of respondents stated they were not interested in topics related to political parties and movements at all. They had similar attitude to websites of government and self-government institutions (80 %). Anyway, that data is also very similar to surveys carried out in Western Europe where young people do not show much interest in politics and public affairs.
  • It has been shown that interest of young people in official social and political issues is at very low level. However, there is much higher interest in participation in interest communities that represent topics close to the mentality and way of thinking of the youth. That is exactly where we can observe postmodern forms of participation in various activities. The results indicate that there is a high level of interest in sites and forums about alternative youth culture (hip-hop, techno, Emo, graffiti, etc.), as well as sites and forums about cultural (e.g. fan clubs, etc.) and sport activities.
  • Survey results prove that more than one half of participating young people are also interested in practical information directly related to their everyday lives. Respondents show the biggest interest in sites with information about offers of jobs vacancies, study, part-time jobs and exchange stays abroad, as well as webs informing about possibilities of leisure activities and education.
  • New media have significantly changed the ways how young people get involved in the society and learn. This fact raises a new set of questions and issues also in our country, which should be taken into consideration by all actors working with the youth.
  • There is a growing importance of the “peer learning” phenomenon. Young people see communication on social networks, chatting and other new media as an important tool for learning new things, knowledge and information. They can refer to formal as well as informal learning. Similar procedures of “peer learning” are applied when collecting information and knowledge concerning their hobbies and leisure activities.
  • A principle question of the on-line identity of young people is whether their “passion” for virtual communication influences their face-to-face relations. The on-line generation does not perceive its communication on social networks and chatting as a supplementary activity or fun but rather as a part of their social existence. Such phenomena are concentrated in their lives rather to support relations in the real life instead of replacing them.
  • From the viewpoint of young respondents, the basis of such new relations does not rest in any impersonality, breaking of social bonds or rebellion against the world of adults. Members of the digital generation, on the contrary, view themselves as very pragmatic and practically oriented people whose important topics include not only fun and satisfaction of their own needs but also dialogs, discussions, solidarity and on-line participation in mattes that matter and they find important.
  • Relatively high level of solidarity to people outside their environment (digital immigrants or people digitally illiterate). Part of young people perceive them with certain disrespect, however, they show relatively high level of tolerance and understanding to them. Young people are, intuitively, but very well, aware of the relationship of bipolar position of digital natives and digital immigrants.

Recommendations of the survey

  • Support access to high-quality services in the field of e-involvement of young people. The purpose is to eliminate deepening of the so called digital gap between individuals and groups with access to the latest technologies and those coming from socially less motivating environment.
  • Support “learning social participation” and participation in representative democracy with the use of digital forms of youth participation (e.g. networks for on-line commenting local, regional and nationwide legislation, presentation of student and school parliaments on social networks such as Facebook, on-line discussion among European institutions and young people, etc.)
  • Adapt contents, forms and technical standards of information and advisory services for the youth to the latest trends of Web 2.0. (video sections, RSS, podcast, etc.)
  • Support setting up of independent youth media (internet television and radio channels, discussion for a, community portals, etc.) as an efficient way of incorporating young people to the civil society and life in the community.
  • Make use of natural creativity of young people in the environment of new media. It would be suitable to support creative use of new media by means of competitions, seminars as well as grant programs that allow young people, without substantial barriers, create and distribute their own multimedia and interactive contents.
  • Support more active use of new technologies in order to foster new talents and raise their interest in arts, innovations and science.
  • Reconsider setting up starting funds that will help young people start up their own businesses in the field of internet communication and new media.
  • Ensure a more efficient presentation of programs Youth in Action (Mládež v akcii) and ADAM also in the on-line environment, which is viewed by most young people (social networks, chatting programs, popular web services, etc.).
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