Youth and the digital media
The new media are no longer new. Today, digital media such as Facebook and Twitter are an integral part of society, and The IT University is home to cutting edge research on the consequences and possibilities of the digital media. How does it affect us as human beings to be connected to others 24-7? Can we strengthen social interaction among the elderly by making a “senior citizen Facebook”? Do the “digital natives” in the younger generations have a more global perspective than their parents, the “digital immigrants”, do?
Researchers at The IT University are often involved in larger quantitative and qualitative studies of the digital media’s impact on our everyday lives. One example is the research project ”EU Kids Online”, in which researchers from 21 European countries collect knowledge on the media habits of children and adolescents. Gitte Stald, associate professor at The IT University, represents Denmark in the project, and the study provides interesting facts for a Danish reader. As it turns out, Danes between the age of 6 and 17 are among the world elite of internet users. While 75 percent of all young Europeans use the internet, the figure in Denmark is 93 percent.
Another interesting fact is that Danish parents are far less worried about the online actions of their children than most European parents are. Therefore, they are also less inclined to surveil their children’s activities on the internet. It appears that their trust is well placed, since the study shows that the young Danes are quite skilled at dealing with the risks and dangers of the digital world.
The research on youth and the social media is not only of sociological interest. It also serves an important political purpose. ”EU Kids Online” is financed through the EU’s ”Safer Internet”-program that aims to protect children and adolescents in their online life and fight illegal and harmful content.
According to Gitte Stald, Denmark has a long tradition of seeing children as sensible beings. We are less keen on surveillance and bans and focus more on upbringing and education. This conclusion is also found within another research subject of The IT University: Mobile telephony. Whereas the majority of American parents go through their children’s phones and read their text messages, most Scandinavian parents would see this behaviour as a violation of the children’s privacy. This is one of the conclusions of a large American study that professor Richard Ling from The IT-University is the co-author of.
Richard Ling is a sociologist and an expert on mobile telephony, and he has written the book ”The Mobile Connection” on the subject. In the study, he also pays attention to two potentially dangerous ways to use a mobile phone: Texting while driving and so-called ”sexting”: Sending and receiving nude photographs on the mobile phone. Both activities are quite common among American teens. However, the study also shows the mobile telephony is primarily a social tool for the young people – a device that ties friends together and facilitates an ongoing, flexible planning of everyday life.
Richard Ling’s research has created international attention, and he is often used as an expert in leading international media. Both New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and BBC have covered his research.