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Teens and ICT: risks and opportunities (TIRO)

Research project TA/00/08 (Research action TA)

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Description :

This research proposal deals with the growing importance of ICT in the life of young people. In their leisure activities, their consumption and interaction patterns and in their education, young people are enthusiastically making use of these technologies. However, they also encounter the risks ICT can involve. Both the opportunities/benefits and the risks/dangers of ICT can have major repercussions on the life of young people. The strong settling of ICT in the life of young people can lead to new communication and interaction patterns among peers and between generations. At certain moments it can also entail tensions and insecurities in the relationship between young people on the one hand and parents and teachers on the other hand. This research proposal wants to examine how these processes of change are taking place, how young persons are experiencing these changes, what new opportunities ICT offer, but also what risks and dangers are involved. All these questions are framed in a double perspective: to maximise the opportunities/benefits of ICT and to minimise the risks/dangers of ICT.

Here the starting point is made that the way young people exploit the opportunities and cope with the dangers of ICT is a matter of digital competencies. International research shows that these competencies are unequally distributed. So, the use and knowledge of ICT parallel the gender gap and social-cultural gap. Next to this, there is also a intergenerational gap (parents and tutors) which can have an important impact on the way risky situations of ICT use are dealt with.

The main objectives of this research proposal are:
- To provide insight in the new social relationships, both beneficial and harmful, that are formed and shaped by ICT.
- To gain insight in the risks factors of ICT use in order to develop effective tools to trace and identify these risks.
- To formulate measures for (auto-)protection that will be translated in policy recommendations.

The findings and insights resulting from this research project will closely fit in with the priorities of the federal policy, because of its focus on questions related to the information society and the social cohesion (cf. intergenerational gap). Therefore, it can equip policymakers with a multifaceted view on and knowledge of the complex matter of young people and ICT. Likewise the other stakeholders, such as youth workers, educators and family unions will benefit from the knowledge that will be produced in this research project, in view of their work for youth empowerment and well-being, and intergenerational understanding as well.

More concretely, the project will concentrate on the use of e-mail, sms, chatboxes, mobile phones, online communities, websites and weblogs by pupils in secondary schools (12-18 years). In the research project, which departs from the perspective of the teens themselves, both the opportunities and risks of ICT are considered from an integrated normative-theoretical framework which combines the active user paradigm with the protectionist perspective on minors and ICT. In the first phase of the actual elaboration of the research both theoretical and empirical research will be mapped by means of a comprehensive study of the international and national literature, in order to gain a clear insight in the mechanisms and patterns of young people's use of ICT and to acquire an overview of the potential risks and the existing measures to protect youngsters against the risks linked to ICT. In a second phase both quantitative and qualitative empirical research will be realised. Existing statistical data sets that provide data on Belgian young people and their use of ICT will be analysed in order to identify interesting profiles of young ICT users. On the basis of these profiles young Belgians between 12 and 18 years old will be recruited in secondary schools. Parents and teachers will also be recruited via the schools.

For the study of the ICT use and the digital competencies of young people, parents and teachers (1) the ICT use of a panel of young people will be followed-up during one year by means of a diary research. In-depth interviews will complement this track of data collection. (2) A sample of young people, parents and teachers will be questioned by means of a small survey without major budgetary consequences. Here we will present the respondents with several scenarios of risk situations and will ask if they already encountered such situations and how they reacted or would react in similar situations. Focus group interviews will complement and explore the findings. (3) Subsequently, all the research findings will be discussed with youth organisations working for a safe(r) use of ICT (Child Focus, Gezinsbond/Ligue des familles, OIVO-CRIOC, etc.). A participatory approach with an active participation of the civil society, is aimed at. (4) Finally policy recommendations will be formulated. Clearly, recommendations regarding possible solutions for risky ICT situations will be formulated in the legal framework.

Documentation :

Cyberteens, cyberrisks, cybertools. Tieners en ICT, risico's en opportuniteiten =
Cyberteens, cyberrisks, cybertools. Les teenagers et les TIC, risques et opportunités
  Bauwens, Joke - Pauwels, Caroline - Lobet-Maris, Claire ... et al  Gent : Academia Press, 2009 (PB6242)
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Adolescents et la TCI : risques et défis (TIRO) : synthèse    Bruxelles : Politique scientifique fédérale, 2011 (SP2418)
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Tieners en ICT: risico’s en uitdagingen (TIRO) : synthese    Brussel : Federaal Wetenschapsbeleid, 2011 (SP2419)
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Teens and ICT: risks and opportunities (TIRO) : summary    Brussels : Federal Science Policy, 2011 (SP2420)
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