Impact of Internet and Media on Modern Youth

6198 Words Oct 30th, 2010 25 Pages
Cultures of Consumption

Working Paper Series

Children online - consumers or citizens?

Professor Sonia Livingstone
London School of Economics and Political Science

Nothing in this paper may be cited, quoted or summarised or reproduced without permission of the author.

Abstract

In the E-Society project entitled UK Children Go Online (www.children-go-online.net), we are combining qualitative and quantitative methods to explore the involvement of 9-19 year olds in today’s heavily mediated consumer culture, focusing on the opportunities and risks that the internet represents for young people. The enthusiasm with which this age group regards the internet (‘we are the internet generation’, they proclaim proudly), suggests a striking
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Newspaper headlines regale us with claims that children are gaining access to what only adults are supposed to know, that commercial institutions are gaining control over education, culture and knowledge, that governments are extending their surveillance into our most private thoughts and practices, that global players are squeezing out local cultures and individual creativity, and so forth.

On the other hand, although attracting less attention, the optimists also predict some grand futuristic consequences of the introduction of new media. The socially excluded may find new routes to participation. Knowledge is being democratised. Consumers get to create rather than passively receive content selected for them. Restrictive or discriminatory frameworks – of gender, race or disability – can be superseded. Local cultures can contribute to a global cosmopolitanism.

Consumer versus citizen

One key boundary is that between citizen and consumer: this intersects with many debates regarding the role of the changing media environment in the privatisation or commercialisation of public space or, conversely, in the extension of the public – outside - world into the domestic. Popularly, citizens are active, engaged, informed, participatory and perhaps even resistant, while consumers are treated as commodities, markets, being managed and passive. This paper examines these changes, and these debates, in relation to children, young
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