A new report by EUKids Online looks at how children from socially disadvantaged families use the internet and how their situation affects their online experiences. They draw their conclusions based on their own data, from other studies conducted in countries belonging to the EU Kids Online network in recent years and based on results of a long term study dealing with the media socialisation of socially disadvantaged children in Austria.
From the summary:
Access and use are the main topics of almost all the studies covered, but for Europe we can state that a lack of access to the internet is not the key problem. This is different, however, for countries like Brazil or Russia. In Europe children and adolescents differ in the way they use the internet and they have different preferences concerning content, e.g. a stronger interest in entertainment.
The educational background of the family (which correlates highly with the economic well-being of a family) plays the major role influencing the different ways the internet is used. Children of lower educated parents are often left alone when dealing
with the internet.
The results of a long term study (from 2005 ongoing) show that socially disadvantaged families are challenged to cope with many problems in their daily life. Resulting from restricted financial resources, unemployment and lower education, lack of time and leisure opportunities their life world conditions are very demanding.
Socially disadvantaged children are at risk in a double way. On the one hand they suffer from the effects of their parents’ socio-structural problems, on the other hand they use media very intensively which means that their socialisation is dominated by media.
Social disadvantage must not be seen as being mono-causal, but is multi-dimensional. Socio- economic “hard facts” such as family income and parent ́s educational level are important but research should also emphasise socio-emotional conditions within a family, especially the youngest children, because the family remains the most important environment in which children are socialised.
Children in socially disadvantaged families as well as their parents, need support in coping with their everyday lives in general. This includes efforts to fight poverty, social exclusion, and unequal opportunities in our societies.
In particular, children who grow up in socially disadvantaged families often find it difficult to take advantage of the opportunities offered by media or to cope adequately with the risks that they might encounter while using them. Therefore every societal stakeholder needs to develop approaches that enable all citizens to use media for actively participating in society.