This week I decided to reflect on my own family and our experiences of living in this 21st century digital age. A time where almost everyone seems to be switched on, logged in and updated with anything from what your best friend had for dinner thanks to her #foodselfie on Instagram, to the latest episode of your favourite TV series or an instant tweet from your boss about your next assignment at work.
It makes me wonder, how did we get this far? How in our own homes has the internet and all these connectible devices become such an integral part of the family home?
Of course it wasn’t always like this, I spoke to my own mother about when we first got an internet connection in our home. She seemed to remember that the decision to get connected came from my older sister and I nagging her that we needed the internet desperately to complete school assignments and use our new school email accounts. Which to be honest, wasn’t entirely true, yes that was some-part of it, but really I just wanted to play the ‘Chill Out’ games on ‘Bubblegum Club’.
I found this particularly important to note, because the defence that children and more commonly teenagers use today to validate their need of an internet connection is for education. The 2012-13 Australian Bureau of Statistics data on patterns of home internet use even provides us with evidence to back this claim up.
“Internet savvy 15–17 year olds most commonly went online for Educational purposes (93%)” (ABS, 2014)
I couldn’t help but realise that this claim was not entirely correct, at least not in my household anyway…and if you feel the same way, let me know in the comments! For me when I was between 15-17, I did use the internet for study and homework but the majority was social networking and entertainment. So we can only assume that today’s teens would do the same, especially with the wealth of on-line platforms available to them now.
Social media researcher danah boyd, explains this in her book “it’s Complicated – The troubled lives of networked teens.” She writes, teenagers experience freedom when they gather with their peers, particularly when it’s in a public setting (boyd, 2014, p 199). However, boyd claims that today, the freedoms teenagers once experienced in regular public settings with their friends such as at the shopping centre, the cinema or sporting games are not so widely available to them in the 21st century, due to fear of unsafe public spaces. Therefore as a substitute, teenagers are today gathering with friends in created “Networked Publics” (boyd, 2014, p 201). Us teens are turning to social media as a means of “engaging with (our) broader world” while satisfying regulation by parents and institutions such as schools that request that teenagers stay safe inside (boyd, 2014, p 202).
The following video explains 31% of teens share content on-line that they don’t want their parents or family to see. Highlighting the reason why teens use the internet as a virtual escape from the family home.
The above image seems all too familiar to me today. My mum notices it almost every night, my sister on her phone, my brother on X-Box live and me on my laptop, all heads down and staring at the screens. Like my mother, social studies and science and technology professor Sherry Turkle recognises this also, infact the above image is of her daughter “hanging out” with her friends. In a 2012 TED talk, Turkle argues that for teenagers, spending too much time in these Networked Publics can be harmful to their social development. According to her, a series of tweets to a friend, or some comments on a Facebook photo does not substitute the life skills learned by having a real life conversation. When technology gets in the way of real life interactions, particularly in the home it becomes problematic.
In my home, our internet began with a prepaid modem, which shortly became not enough to fuel the internet use of a 10 and 13 year old. When in about 2004, my sister and I were the only people in the house using the computer…and none of us had a mobile phone. Then came dial-up, which at the time, to me, appeared to be super fast, my on-line games only took a couple of minutes to load. However, shortly, the inhibition dial-up had on our land-line phone use proved too difficult. So in about 2007, when I was 13, we received our first broadband ADSL bundle and after phone call and phone call to our internet service provider, we have enough at the moment to keep us all happy and connected.
So, flash forward to today, our household still has some minor internet issues that occur every once in a while, like in bad weather or when we’re all on-line at once. But like basic food and water, it seems that the internet and our on-line devices have become a basic human necessity in the family home. Which honestly, is quite bizarre to think about.
Thanks for stopping by,
Australian Bureau of Statistics 2014, Household Use of Information Technology, Australia, 2012-13, cat. no. 8146.0, accessed 22 august 2014, <http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/8A12E6E0D07D36A0CA257C89000E3FB7?opendocument>
boyd, d 2014, ‘It’s Complicated – The Troubled Lives of Networked Teens,’ Yale University Press, New Haven, pp 199-202
Turkle, S 2012, ‘Connected – But Alone?’ TED Transcript, accessed 22 august 2014, <http://www.ted.com/talks/sherry_turkle_alone_together/transcript>