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Balancing between Opportunities and Risks

Edited By Wannes Heirman, Sara Mels, Christiane Timmerman, Heidi Vandenbosch and Michel Walrave

The omnipresence of ICT in modern households has provided children and adolescents with plenty of opportunities for education, entertainment and contact. This young age group, however, is increasingly confronted with a range of online risks relating to personal contact and inappropriate content. This duality was the central thread of an international multidisciplinary conference from which this book presents a selection of excellent papers.
After providing the reader with a typology of the benefits of and threats arising from young people’s internet use, the book elaborates on the issue of online access and the extent to which the young use ICT in their daily lives. The authors also consider the opportunities young people now have to use and produce online content, as well as the tremendous contact opportunities offered by social network sites. Alongside these opportunities, risks such as cyberbullying are examined too. The final part of the book is devoted to young people’s empowerment and protection. The roles of parents, schools and governments are scrutinized in the context of allowing young people to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks of the internet.


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PART I ACCESS INVESTIGATING DIGITAL GAPS 37 The Media Richness of Flemish Teenagers A Multi-method Approach to the Appropriation of Media Technologies Cédric COURTOIS, Peter MECHANT & Steve PAULUSSEN Introduction In the last decades Western households have increasingly appropriat- ed media technologies. For example, recent representative figures on Flanders, the Northern part of Belgium, indicate that 97% of Flemish people own a television set, 92% has a mobile phone, 81% owns a com- puter and 78% has a an Internet connection (IBBT, 2009). Consequent- ly, teenagers, growing up in these media-rich environments have been confronted with an abundance of media technologies from a very young age. This generation, for whom a world without technology is probably unimaginable, is often referred to as the digital natives (Prensky, 2001), screenagers (Rushkoff, 1997) or the net generation (Oblinger & Oblinger, 2005). These concepts all refer to their supposed technological savviness and abundant access to various kinds of technologies and devices. Previous research has indicated the possibility of multifarious conse- quences from this early acquaintance with media technologies. It has highlighted the role of media in identity formation and the attainment of autonomy, both developmental key issues. For one, media consumption furnishes identity formation, as Brown et al. state: “they [adolescents] use media and cultural insights provided by them [media] to see both who they might be and how others have constructed or reconstructed themselves” (Brown et al., 1994, p. 814). Also, independently choosing what content to consume and when to consume it, may provide...

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