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Title: "It's finding that balance" : families negotiating the discourses of youth and technology
Author: Coulton, Claire
Awarding Body: Lancaster University
Current Institution: Lancaster University
Date of Award: 2012
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The past decade has seen an increase in domestic ownership of ICTs, access to the internet, the growing popularity of video gaming, and also the development of social media, and social networking sites such as Facebook. Alongside this, Government has promoted domestic ownership for beneficial purposes in education, citizenship, improved communication and access to social services. During this period two contradictory discourses have emerged which position young people and their families in relation to new technologies. The first sees children and young people as being in particular need of gaining ICT skills and of passing these skills on to parents who have been deemed less able. In contrast to this, a negative discourse of moral panic about new technologies and youth has been highly visible in the media. Parents and children are required to negotiate these conflicting discourses in their everyday lives and the aim of this thesis is to examine family practices with ICTs and new technologies in the face of powerful official and popular discourses around youth and technology. The research presented in this thesis draws upon social practice theory, specifically, literacy as social practice and Morgan's (1996) approach to family practices which identifies domains of family life as labour, care, gender, consumption and the body. The research has two strands; the first is a discourse analysis of media texts which seeks to highlight current popular discourses and how children and youth are discursively constructed within media in relation to new technologies. The second strand is an ethnographically informed fieldwork study of four local families. This part of the study employs novel collaborative research projects which encouraged the families to produce their own data. Interview and focus groups with family members were also used. The findings suggest a high level of moral panic in popular discourses around youth and technology with an overall negative portrayal of young people. Discourses of youth as risky or as being at risk polarise the discussion and stifle alternative or competing narratives. A particularly strong and popular construction of childhood as a period of innocence and purity is present. Within this construction closeness to nature, healthy bodies and sexual innocence are emphasised and technology is seen as a disruptive and polluting force, which is at odds with the celebratory and beneficial discourse promoted by government. The findings show that all four families were engaged in a balancing process between what they felt were beneficial aspects of new technologies and those they felt were risky and harmful. Family practices with ICTs were often shaped by parents' beliefs about childhood and the sort of childhood they wanted their children to experience. Parents drew upon a dominant Western model of childhood which was prevalent in media texts, and this was often the driving force behind parents' rules and regulations in relation to ICT. Initially, parents espoused the official celebratory discourses of ICT as beneficial to their children 's education; however, the research methods allowed for a more nuanced understanding to be developed which probed their initial viewpoint and demonstrated that parents were sceptical of the benefits of ICT for their children'S education and literacy practices. Their children's eventual future success as adults was the over-riding concern of parents and ICTs occupied an ambivalent role in this process. The findings suggest that the term 'digital divide' is unhelpful in understanding practices with ICTs. Children and adults alike often have a long history of exposure to a range of ICTs, with competency and expertise developing in ad hoc ways at different levels and associated with different social practices, frequently based on real world interests, hobbies and family practices. The researcher suggests research that investigates an individual's digital profi le and digital exposure over time would be a more helpful approach, in particular in examining gendered practices with ICTs in the family.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available