IV Congreso da CiberSociedade 2009. Crise analóxica, futuro dixital

Grupo de Traballo F-32: Minor and TIC

Interactive media technologies challenges and Risks among youth". Two cases analysis

Relator/es


Resumo

In most cases, the online activities and behaviors analyzed in this paper may not always represent a risk in themselves, but the presence of all these factors in one individual is what could be an indicator of dangerous risk levels for that person.
"Mats" and "Gina" are two participants that invest a greater number of hours using internet each week, among a sample of 11 participants between 11 and 16 years old that were the most not consider high media consumers in an initial study. In the case of Gina, more than 25 hours per week, and with Mats at most 15 hours per week in the internet and 25 hours playing a favorite video games like Counter Strike (CS), a First Person Shooter online video game. For this reason they are considered high media consumers. Interestingly, we also noted that they experiences problems related with the use of interactive media technology. Mats risk is due to his exposure to violence, behaviors and thoughts around it, whereas Gina's risk is mainly due to her online socialization practices, as well as her intense use of internet.
Keywords: Online risks, internet dangers, internet addiction, violent video games, online solicitation, internet addiction

Texto da comunicación

1.Introduction

1.1 Background

Today, young generations grow up having great contact with different kinds of interactive media technologies and digital media. They are easily acquiring “digital literacy” and live in a digital world to which adults are only ‘naturalized citizens’.

 Tapscott (1998) talks to us about the meaning of growing up in a digital environment, referring to youth as the “Net Generation”.  Children are socializing in a hybrid virtual space, learning in innovative ways, creating a new language and practicing multicultural values. (Tappscott, 1998). The main characteristics of the “N-Gen” culture are: independence, emotional and intellectual openness, inclusion, free expression and strong views, innovative, preoccupation with maturity, pleasure by the investigation, immediacy, sensitivity to corporate interest, authentication, and trust. (Tapscott, 1998 pp. 62-69).

 As we examine the socio-cultural challenges now arising as a direct result from phenomenon associated with new interactive technologies, we can observe that old and new media share similar and diverse characteristics.  As a cultural phenomenon however, it is interesting to highlight that both have raised concerns and created hopes within different societies, and most importantly, as Buckingham (2004) suggests, it is quite relevant how media technology is associated with and is influenced by childhood myths. Usually, the practices of youth have been perceived by adults as threatening or challenging. Some view the child’s participation in media technologies as participative, creative and spontaneous while others see the child’s role as vulnerable, innocent and one to be protected. (Buckingham, 2004).

 Debates on new media technologies or Information Communications Technologies (ICT) diverge into two distinct directions.  Some idealize media technology, adopting a utopian perspective, while others experience a “moral panic” as defined by Stanley Cohen (1972 in Buckingham, 2004)  and have a dystopian outlook. 

Survey results suggest that gaps between parents and children happens in different ways: Internet expertise, awareness of risk, acknowledgement of domestic regulations in place, and in what parents believe their children are doing versus what they are actually doing.  (Livignstone and Bober 2005).

 Anxieties about the safety, health and balanced use of interactive media technologies can be classified in three main groups: worries about the exposition to unwanted material, online victimization and the practice of dangerous online behaviors. What activities do young people do online? With whom do young people establish relationships? How much time do young people invest in online activities? What online behaviors do young people demonstrate? What is the impact of the online interaction in the life and in youth development?

1.2 Theoretical Framework

Our study is based in a theoretical approach that considers children to have “a natural and spontaneous creativity, which is released by the machine” (Buckingham, 2000 in Buckingham 2003). “Young people are active agents who can manipulate, adapt, create, and disseminate ideas and products through communication technologies. (Berson and Berson,2005). According to Tapscott (1998), the digital literacy possessed by youth has given power to children in their relations with adults as well as autonomy in the world. Children are authorities on the internet. (Rettie,2002). Also, technological modern developments have contributed to the democratization of the family, especially in countries that are pioneers in Information Communication Technologies (ICT), such as Sweden. The domestication of media used by youth can be seen across “diverse individuals versus socially stratified culture, and nationally versus global identities and community” (Livignstone and Bovill,2001: 326). The anxieties about “the solitary nature of new media use is contrasted by worries about lost community traditions and values”.  (Livignstone and Bovill, 2001:327).

 More specifically in relation to our aim the intensive or high levels of online participation or internet use has been associated with online risk (Michell, et al., 2003; Mediarådet, 2008). But, the simple use of internet cannot predict risk. (Enhancing Child Safety & Online Technologies, 2008 for Internet & Society at Harvard University, 2008).

 From the development perspective, Adersen (2002) argues in relation to the use of the internet by youth that “the multiple sensory inputs are demanding on cognitive resources and can overwhelm children’s capacity to engage in thoughtful decision making (Andersen, 2002 in Berson and Berson 2005).  At an early age, children are not aware of the risks, and they require adult supervision.  During adolescence, a child’s ability to make life choices is still under development (Berson and Berson, 2005). In fact, adolescents have especially been often considered as vulnerable to risky behaviours like the consumption of drugs or alcohol (e.g Hawkins, 1992).

However, some of the online behaviors performance by children as well as adolescents classified as risky behaviors should be better classified as ‘online challenging behaviors’, since these online behaviors are commonly practice by youth today and in the most cases these behaviors are not associated with negative consequences.  Many of these behaviors are encouraged or reinforced by the very structural characteristics of the virtual space, and sometimes the manifestation of certain behaviors is necessary in order to participate with others in cyberspace and enjoy the full benefits of online applications (i.e., publish photos in social networks, chat, interact or build associations or groups with strangers in video games). 

 Before continue with the literature review we will define some online risk concepts relevant in our study.

1.3 Definitions of the main online risk categories

In this study online risks have being divided in three main categories: Content risk due to the possibility of exposure to unwanted information, contact risk associated with online victimization (which includes online sexual victimization and interpersonal victimization), and dangerous online behaviors.

Exposure to problematic content can easily happened online since it is difficult to control what information the user receives while surfing the web or even opening E-mail or instant messages.  Pornography, racism, fascination with violence and other antisocial attitudes can be accessed as primary content in web pages or as advertisements in chat rooms, forums, social networks sites and others popular places accessed by young people. (Wolak, et al., 2003).

 Online victimization can be categorize as ‘online interpersonal victimization’ and ‘online sexual victimization’ (Ybarra, et.al., 2007). Experiencing multiple types of victimizations can be also called polyvictimization (Ybarra, et.al., 2007).Online solicitation or online sexual solicitation and approaches can be understood “as requests to engage in sexual activities” (e.g cybersex,  sexual talk, offering personal sexual information that was unwanted, and even whether wanted (Finkelhor, Wolak 2007 & Mitchell, 2001). It can include approaches and sexual harassment, and unwanted exposure to sexual material. (Wolak et al. 2006). This last one can be considered as victimization when is use for target or seduce a specific victim. Victimization can result in for example child pornography, possession, distribution or trade (Barnardos, 2004) or in aggressive sexual solicitation when it involves offline contact with the perpetrator by telephone or in person. (Wolak, et al, 2006).

The main online personal victimization is cyberbullying and it is defined as “an overt, intentional act of aggression towards another person online” (Ybarra and Mitchell 2004 in Ybarra, et al., 2007a) and usually is a practice that takes place during some period of time.Operationally, it can be defined as “having been ignored, disrespected, called names, threatened, picked on, made fun of, or having had rumors spread by others.” (Patchin and Hinduja, 2006). It can be semi-public or public (Enhancing Child Safety & Online Technologies, 2008) and can take place in text messages, Phone calls (via mobile phone), Email, Chat-room, instant messaging, websites (Ybarra, et.al., 2007a).; picture/video clips (via mobile phone cameras). The difference with online harassment is that harassment doesn’t involve the spread rumors.

Online risk or challenging behaviors has been defined in this paper as when a person becomes actively involved in online activities that expose or make them vulnerable to experience different risk levels or challenges.(e.g., chatting with “strangers”, revealing personal information online, visiting pornography sites, engaging in sexual activities like cybersex remove, engage in e-bullying, illegal practices or getting engages with controversial groups). Disclosure of personal information online includes either posting or sending personal information online. Posting information can be defined as displaying one’s real name, telephone number, school name, age or year born, or pictures of oneself online. (Ybarra, et al., 2007).

In the next diagram subcategories are outlined for each of the main classifications relevant in this study.

Figure 1. Categories of online risks

1.4 Cyberspace structural characteristics and online risk behaviors

The structural characteristics of the Internet that allow a communications mediated by the computer (CMC) provide an environment for specific phenomenon that occurs during online interactions. These phenomenons open new venues for an increase or facilitation of an exposure to risks. (Enhancing Child Safety & Online Technologies, 2008for Internet & Society at Harvard University, 2008). The main phenomena are: Anonymity (Turkle, 1998; Wallace, 1998), uninhibited or disinhibition behavior (Suler, 1998), flexible identity and role playing (Turkle, 1998, Suler 1996), deindividuation (Festinger, 1952, Suler, 1996), equalized status, temporal flexibility and transcending space and social multiplicity (Suler, 1996) and the imaginary audience phenomenon (David Elkind, 1967). Here are some examples of how this phenomenon can be involved in online risk behaviours according analyze made by the author.

  • Anonymity- Young people can feel attracted to experimentation and subsequently visit taboo sites believing that “nobody will know them” and “nobody can see them”,  and young people as well can harass another visitor.

  • Unihibited or Disinhibition behavior or effect – People can feel free to do or say things they will never do in real life settings. Children can easily reveal all type of information perhaps to the wrong person. Anonymity and disinhibition may facilitate engagement in “sensation seeking behaviors” that can result in dangerous online behaviours.

  • Flexible identity and role playing- People can easily pretend to be someone else. Children can engage in online relationships and be exposed to the risk of “identity play or deception” since a person can easily be untruthful and perhaps abuse children.

  • Deindividuation- People can get involved in problematic or controversial groups offline as well as online, but online the deindividuation can occur easily on account of the anonymity of the cyberspace, the diffused responsibility due to the possibly of disconnecting or just disappearing and, because social networks tend to be extensive.  Groups of children can engage easily in harassing of a classmate in this context.

  • Equalized status – The Internet is an open space where adults and children freely can interchange roles and communicate in different ways and levels. It can be very positive yet has demonstrated some risks, like in the case of online sexual victimization. Also, it is thought that everybody has the possibility, to enjoy equality by “net democracy” (Suler, 1996).  Digital technologies empower young people because usually they are better than adults at manipulating technology. (Livingstone and Bober 2005) It can make adults feel threatened by the digital ability of children or the children can take advantage of this knowledge in an unconstructive way.

  • Social multiplicity- The possibility of establishing contact with strangers around the world, and in some cases become popular or even famous; can motivate the individual to get involved in controversial practices. (e.g publications of naked photos, hacking).

  • Imaginary audience- This is a “state often exhibited in young adolescents” (David Elkind, 1967) and it can manifest online for example in the intensive use and problems with self-regulation in creating WebPages for personal profiles in order to please “the imaginary audience”, to obtain or to not lose popularity, as an egocentric act where the individual imagines and believes that multitudes are interested in him/her.

  • Temporal flexibility and Transcended Space- Among others, unlimited access at specific locations which give privacy, 24 hour access, the ability to establish not only synchronous (real time) communication, but also asynchronous, can facilitate the exposure of children to risk due to the difficulty of constant parental supervision

2. Literature Review

2.1. Problematic Exposure

2.1.1. Exposure to problematic material

The Internet has changed the way the consumption of pornography takes place.  People have greater possibility to access pornography through their own initiative or accidentally.  (Mediarådet 2006).

UK going online research (2003) made with English population found that the 57 percent of 9 to 19 years old, have come into contact with online pornography. They encounters with pornography had happened in different ways. The most common was in pop-up advert, open porn site accidentally when looking for something else or in junk mail. Also 22 percent of 9-19 year old, daily and weekly users have accidentally ended up on a site with violent or gruesome pictures, and 9 percent on a site that is hostile or hateful to a group of people. (Livignstone and Bober 2005). Additionally, a national survey of risk, impact and prevention conducted by Michaell et, al. (2003) found that using the internet intensively, taking risk online, going to chat rooms, and using the computer in other people’s homes are the most predictive behaviors associated with exposure to sexual material on the internet. (Michell, et al., 2003).

2.1.2. Exposition to advertising and consumption of virtual items

Children and youth are constantly exposed to different types of marketing, not only by visiting web pages, but also through the practice of their favorite hobbies. Virtual online communities and video games include exposition of real life marketing inside the virtual settings. “Some communities transform children’s play into a way of gathering information”. (Chung and Grimes, 2005).

New kinds of games and virtual communities come into the picture when the user spends money to enhance the gaming experience (e.g. subscriptions, purchasing virtual items).  Many of these virtual spaces are based on a real economic infrastructure where users Real Trade money (RTM) in order to buy, sell, and exchange virtual items or virtual money. (Ortiz, A, 2007). Parents have complained about some communities because they do not feel there is proper control of purchases and that the maximum purchase is too high. (Kvarntorp, 2007).

2.2. Online victimization

2.2.1. Online Sexual victimization

Online sexual solicitation appears to be more common in adolescent than children. (Enhancing Child Safety & Online Technologies, 2008for Internet & Society at Harvard University, 2008).

The Youth Internet Safety Survey, conducted by Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire interviewed 1,501 youth ages 10 to 17 years that frequently use the internet found that the 19 percent of youth  (77 percent were 14 years or older) have received an unwanted sexual solicitation via the web; only 24 percent of teens told a parent about the solicitation (29 percent told a peer); and 75 percent of teens were not worried by the sexual online solicitation. (Finkelhor, Wolak, and Mitchell, 2001).

2.2 2. Interpersonal Online Victimization

Harassment among peers has become unlimited thanks to the youth’s access to the modern technologies. Bullying is occurred in a new territory, online (Li, 2006). Studies suggest that offline bullying usually increases in middle school (Devoe et al. 2005 in Enhancing Child Safety & Online Technologies, 2008for Internet & Society at Harvard University, 2008), but online harassment happens later and continues into high school (Wolak et al. 2006 ).

Ungar & Medier 2008 from Mediarådet, conducted a postal questionnaire with 1,000 parents and 1,000 youth in Sweden and found that the 14 percent had been bullied in at some occasion, the 18 percent of youth (12 to 16) and 9 percent of children (9 to 12) had been victims of cyberbullying.  More than 20 percent of parents report that their child has been exposed to bullying or that someone has been mean to their child on the Internet. (Medirådet, 2008).

2.3. Dangerous online behavior

Not only the exposition to unwanted material has been consider as a serious risk, but also the participation and the facility to become a member of controversial groups. Some youth may identify strongly with this sort of material and they may feel validated and encouraged to practice it. (Wolak, et al., 2003).

Ybarra et, al. (2007) studied found that “engaging in many different kinds of online risky behaviours explain online interpersonal victimization more than engaging in specific individual behaviours”. Interestingly, according to Ybarra et al., (2007) engage in online risky behaviour take place while youth is using the internet with friends or peers. (40 percent).

2.3.1. Publishing personal information & related concerns

Risks associated with posting personal information include: identity theft, where youth publish personal information that can compromise their future (e.g., to disclose information on the use of drugs or some type of criminal activity as a youth that can be discovered by future employers). (Moscardell and Divine, 2007)  Also, posting personal information is considered to expose youth to victimization by child molesters, although it seems that there is not empirical evidence that supports this concern (Wolak, et al., 2008). Additionally, studies suggest that youth who have online profiles are more likely to be contacted online by strangers, but none of them report frightening or uncomfortable experiences. (Lenhart & Madden, 2007; Smith, 2007 in Wolak, et al., 2008).

2.3.2. Bullies

Studies have often found an overlap between cyberbullying offenders and victims (Beran and Li 2007; Kowalski and Limber 2007; Ybarra and Mitchell 2004a in Enhancing Child Safety & Online Technologies, 2008for Internet & Society at Harvard University, 2008). Although, it is recognized that adults bulled minors, it is not precisely known how common it is. (Wolak et al, 2006)..  Other studies point out that minors are usually harassed by people of their same age. (Hinduja and Patchin 2009 in Enhancing Child Safety & Online Technologies, 2008for Internet & Society at Harvard University, 2008). Males are more likely to be bullies and cyberbullies than females. (Li, 2006).

2.3.3. Socialization online and concerns

An Internet connection allows new ways to establish fellowship and support previous ‘based in real life’ relationships. Chats, forums, web pages and the most recent web 2.0 technologies allow people to interchange information and socialize in very creative ways. A Swedish study revel that to be a member of one or several virtual communities is common. Approximately 55 percent of the youth 12 to 16 years old is member in some virtual community. The 67 percent of the girls and the 42 percent of the boys are member of one of these communities.  (Findahl & Zimic, 2008).

The Mediarådet survey found that, 9 percent of youth have met someone in person that they had only met online. Access to an Internet connection at home and high levels of internet use have been associated with the engagement in online relationships. (Wolak, et al., 2003).

Anxieties about youth’s online relationships tend to be regarding to the contact and socialization with strangers, and also regarding the use of technological tools to harm or molest someone as well as to be bulled.  Although, according to Wolak et al (2002) “The majority of Internet-initiated connections involving youth appear to be friendship related, nonsexual, and formed between similar-aged youth and known to parents” (Wolak et al. 2002).

2.3.4 Video Games fears and controversy

Video games as the most immersive mass media to date, are not solely devices of entertainment, but are being used didactically and therapeutically. (Ortiz, 2007). Additionally, it has been corroborated their positive cognitive effects in relation to the improvement of spatial abilities and reaction time.(Lager, and Bremberg, 2005). Yet at the same time, “video games present new questions regarding the individual consequences of gaming in terms of the physical and psychological health of the participant, as well as broader social and ethical issues.  How is the prolonged immersion in these fantasy worlds impacting the player?” (Ortiz, 2007).

Video game playing has been associated with different types of problematic. But, the prevalence of the most of these problems has not been probed deeply or consistently in most of the studies. (Griffiths, 2007).

2.4 Who appear to be more vulnerable?

2.4.1. Children or adolescents?

Experts in the area affirm that Internet digital competence doesn’t guarantee that the individual will avoid the online risks. It seems that risks encountered increases with internet use. (Livingstone and Bober, 2005). Determinate who is more vulnerable to the online risks is controversial. On one hand, in comparison with the older generations, children appear to be vulnerable to the online risk due to their inexperience and their poor safety practices.  On the other hand, adolescents seems to be vulnerable to online risk due to the complexity of their online activities and their engagement in dangerous online behaviors. (Wolak et al. 2008b). They seems to be less “safety- conscious” (Brookshire and Maulhardt 2005; Fleming et al. 2006 in Enhancing Child Safety & Online Technologies, 2008for Internet & Society at Harvard University, 2008). However, each day children increasingly use the internet (Mediarådet 1998) and this reality can make the youngest group more vulnerable to the exposure of risk over the time. (Michell, et al., 2003).

2.5. The Parental Role

2.5.1. Digital Divides and Generational Gap

Tapscott (1998) uses the term “generational gap” to explain the differences between the people who have digital literacy and those who do not have it.  Generational gap “is measured as the difference (in attitudes) between various age groups at a specific point in time; differences in attitudes of equivalent age groups at different points in time are not considered generational gaps”. (Rettie, 2002). Children usually consider themselves more expert than their parents. Among daily or weekly internet users, 19 percent of parents describe themselves as beginners, compared with only 7 percent of children.  (Livignstone and Bober, 2005).

2.5.2 Parental internet perception and, and Risk Management

Parents usually exhibit worries and hopes in relation to technology.  The ‘UK Children Go Online’ (2005) survey found that parents appear ambivalent toward the internet, showing positive attitudes (e.g., the internet helps children with school work and discover new things) as well as negative attitudes (e.g., the internet risks the child’s personal information and exposes them to pornographic or violent images) (Livignstone & Bober, 2004).  Furthermore, the ‘Young People, New Media’ survey found that 95 percent of parents, mainly middle class parents, are broadly positive about computers, but certainly more enthusiastic for their children than for themselves. (Livingstone, 2007 in  Cankaya, et, al., 2008).

Concerns and fearful attitudes toward Internet use has given place to the implementation of rules and strategies by parents in order to control their child’s online practices.

18 percent of parents in the ‘UK Going Online’ survey (2005) report that parents do not know how to help their child use the internet safely.  Also, parents underestimate their child’s negative online experiences.. (Livingstone and Bober, 2005). It seems that the youngest teenagers, and more females than males, reported having Internet safety discussion with their parents. (Michele, 2006). A study made by Mitchel, et al. (2006) in Australia found that youth who have participated in internet safety discussions have better safety practices.

3. Aims

The objective of this paper is the analysis of two individual cases “Gina” and “Mats” that seem to show a problematic use of internet and video games.

4. Methods

4.1.Choice of Methods

Data was collected through semi-structured qualitative interviews with closed and open questions. Since each question in our guideline was already classified under some category, an analysis of the data was conducted using a “thematic analysis frame approach” (Byrman, 2007:554). 

The interviews took place in the home of each family. The home can be considered a ‘natural’ environment since it is where the family lives together.

4.2 Limitations

This is a small study with a very restricted scope of findings and the generalization of results is not possible.

According to previous studies, the intense use of the internet has been associated with the exposure to a variety of risks. (Ybarra, et.al., 2007).  Due to time constraints, our informants were not previously classified or selected based on the intensity or expertise with which they use the internet and/or video games.   As a result, it turns out that most of the children in the original sample were not considered to be high frequency users, which was determined by responses to our question about how many hours are invested per week, However, the participants provided us with rich and interesting material, although their answers to some our questions may be limited in comparison with those which could be provided by higher frequency internet and/or video games users. 

4.3 Sample

The selection of informants was carried out without consideration whether or not they intensively use the internet or video games.  This was due to the short time frame we had to conduct this project. The participants take in consideration in this paper are profiles that stood out, in comparison to the rest of the participants in the initial study that were made with 11 children and 11 parents in total. The participants in this study are a boy from 14 years old and a girl 15 years old. They parents are immigrant to Sweden. One of the children born in Sweden.  

4.4 The Questions

Two interview guides where designed; one for the children and other for the parents. Both interview guides included demographic information and questions to know about the children and parents characteristics and basic internet use. The interview guidelines and questions were built with the intention of targeting different categories of information. See appendices for the guides lines used during the interviews.

5. RESULTS

In this paper we will focus in the analysis of two cases found among the 11 children interview in our initial sample. The interviews where not conducted in English, the citations are the result of a translation made by us. We tried to use the same words or expressions the participants articulated.

5.1. Risky profiles

Table 1. Participant consider with a risk profile

 

6. Analysis

During the analysis of our interviews, we detected two individuals whose profiles stood out, in comparison to the rest of the participants, and for this reason we consider the analysis of these specific individuals important. 

This section must be read in a critical way.  The intent of this section is mainly to invite to reflection, and to encourage relevant dialog, more so than to arrive at any particular conclusion, since further investigation is needed.  In most cases, the online activities and behaviors analyzed in this section may not always represent a risk in themselves, but the presence of all these factors in one individual is what could be an indicator of dangerous risk levels for that person.

Mats” and “Gina” are two participants that invest a greater number of hours using internet each week in comparison to the rest of the participants in this study. In the case of Gina, more than 25 hours per week, and with Mats at most 15 hours per week in the internet and 25 hours playing a favorite video games like Counter Strike (CS), a First Person Shooter online video game. For this reason they are considered “high media consumer” (Mediarådet, 2008).  Interestingly, we noted that they also experiences related with the use of interactive media technology. Mats risk is due to his exposure to violence, behaviors and thoughts about it, whereas Gina’s risk is mainly due to her online socialization practices, as well as her intense use of internet.

 Intensive or high levels of online participation have been associated with online risks. (Livinsgstone and Bober, 2005; Berson and Berson, 2005). According to Livingstone and Bober in their report UKCGO (2005), “not only the most skilled young people fail to avoid online risk, but their risk encounters increased with increased use”.  In our study, the hours invested each week were positive when correlated with higher exposure to risk, as in Gina and Mats.

 Gina was classified as a risk taker because she became engaged in various online risks behaviors such as, the use of webcam with strangers, meeting people in real life, and we are suspicious regarding her viewing online pornography, also she reported sleep deprivation during weekends due to being connected to the internet since she has a computer in her room.  Furthermore, her mother reports her intensive use of internet. 

 Mother:...It is like something that has absorbed the children. It is like a magnet. It is like they got possessed…She just arrives from school and goes directly to the computer all the time. It is bad because they are so connected to the screen”. (T).

 During her interview Gina tell us this:

Interviewer: Did you have someone threaten, bother or harass you online?

Mats:Yes, sometimes someone told me to model for them, but I said, I am not like      that, I don’t give shows.  I am not a model.  If I put the camera online here for you, it is for you to meet me.  That is all”(T)

Interviewer: What you would do if you couldn’t have an internet connection?

Gina: This could be difficult… I would watch the TV, but actually… I live in the internet a lot.  It is something I like it a lot. In the computer I have the internet, but if I don’t have the internet, if I cannot have internet it makes me feel ‘hysteric’ because I cannot take the computer” (T).

Waterman (1984) suggested that “adolescents try out different youth activities as part of their process of identity exploration, and that these activities are primary source of material for identity exploration” (Waterman, 1984 in Dworking et al, 2002). The behaviours manifested by Gina can be consider as part of here development stage. Some of her online behaviours can be due to her “lack of experience that leads…” Gina “…to an error of judgment regarding level of risk or in which…” her “…sense of invulnerability results in a failure to consider risk or the need to act in a deliberative way” (Green, Krcmar, Walters, Rubin, and Hale, 2000 in Berson and Berson 2005), or also due to her “failure to categorize actions as falling within the moral domain of behavior so that personal gain is emphasized over safety for herself” (Willard, 2000 in Berson and Berson, 2005).  Elkind (1974) stated that adolescents are distinct from others ages in that they believe that no harm can come to them. This concept have used by many research for explain why adolescents are more likely to engage in dangerous behaviours or risky situations. (Elkind, 1974 in Ryan, 2009).Gina seems to underestimate the online risks because she thinks she can control  what happen online,  she stated that  If she doesn’t like something, she can  eliminate it and that is all.  However, the online behaviours shown by Gina expose her to a higher risk of online victimization, at least to a higher degree than girls that do not become engaged in these online behaviors.  Nevertheless, because she reports not reveling personal information, and she is seems to be aware of some online risks, this may protect her.

In a study by Ybarra, et al.,(2007b) study found that meeting people online in multiple ways, talking about sex with unknown people, and having multiple unknown people in one’s buddy list are associated with significantly higher probability of online interpersonal victimization.Also, “engaging in many different kinds of online behaviours explains online interpersonal victimization more than engaging in specific individual behavior” Furthermore, youth who interact with unknown people online and show different risky online behaviors are more likely to receive aggressive sexual solicitation than the ones that interact with strangers online but do not engage in other online risky behaviours. (Wolak, et al., 2008). A comparative analysis on challenging online behavior of adolescent girls in the United Stated and New Zealand found that as adolescents get older the “odds of agreeing to risky behaviour increases”, 17 to 18 year olds are almost four times more likely to meet a stranger than 12 to 13 year olds. Yet,  the 15 to 16 year olds  were found to be the most vulnerable. Almost 7 percent of the 16 year olds and 6.7 percent of the 15 year olds engage in risky behavior  (Berson and Berson, 2005).

In the next section we will analyze the case of Mats.

 Mats had fight though a video game in the school, and also he has been cyberbullied by a classmate and also he visits web pages to look for games and to learn self defense techniques. His father also reports that he is playing GameBoy “all the time” or with his computer. As a note, he had been playing Counter Strike (CS) for at least one year, which is rated by the European Game Information (PEGI) plan as a 16+ authorized game, and by the American Entertainment Software Rating Board (ERSB) as a 17+ authorized game, yet he is 14.  CS is one of the most popular games among the 10 percent of Swedish youth between the ages of nine and sixteen who play video games, and 19 percent, ages 12 to 16 years old. (Mediaråder, 2008),  Based on our interviews, we observed that Mats doesn’t have regular adult supervision or regulation in relation to his use of media.  According Anderson, et al. (2007), parents are a very important influence in the minimization of the negative effects of violent video games, mostly by limiting the types of games and how much time is spent with game play.

During his interview he told us:

Interviewer: What games do you play?

Mats:"I play games and there are web pages that you can play games where you learn self defense".

I can learn self defense by practicing what they do on the game with my friends. I learn what kind of movement the hero use. If someone attacks me in real life I will fight back. I know many movements. I usually play Counter strike. I use guns in the game. I like the way you can protect yourself from a gun by jumping and kicking the gun off from the other player”.                                    

Interviewer: How do you learn self-defense from CS?

Mats: By shooting a gun

Interviewer: How do you learn self-defense for the real life?

Mats: I learn the movement but I cannot shoot a real gun.

Most likely, learning self-defense from a game it is not in itself a problem.  In fact, Mats may feel empowered or have a sense of self-confidence from the possibility of learning game skill movements and skills.  Yet the problematic we see with Mats is that he is planning to respond with aggression to an aggression.  His preoccupation with being prepared for an attack, and thereby focusing on preparation for such an event, was concerning to us, even though he was learning “fight” technique from the game.  Of course, we cannot establish that his behaviors were developed, or originated from the game.  Also, we cannot show that any previous conflict he experienced in school contributed to his apparent need to protect himself.  And although we do not know if this was an isolated incident., Ybarra and colleges report that “youths who receive rude or nasty comments via text messaging are significantly more likely to also report feeling unsafe at school (Ybarra, et al., 2007a).

It seems that together all of these events put Mats at risk factor. Certainly, in the development of aggressive behavior patterns, there are always proximal risk factors (e.g., provocation, social stress, pro-aggression beliefs), and distal risk factors (e.g., family practices, media violence, personality and genetic factors). (Anderson, Gentile and Buckley, 2007:47). The engagement in violent video games by Mats could certainly be a risk factor.

Nonetheless, there is certainly evidence surrounding violent video games that invites further discussion.  According to Gentile et al (2004) “violent video game exposure has been both directly associated with physical fights and indirectly associated, with trait hostility mediating the effects of violent video games exposure on fights. The relation between violent video game exposure and physical fights is stronger than that between violent game exposure and arguments with teachers”.

It is unclear whether the types of games that Mats plays increase aggression in “the short term, or over time, because they typically involve more cooperation, planning, and social interaction and less violence than the typical shooting and fighting games”. (Anderson, Gentile and Buckley, 2007:36). Moreover, according to social-cognitive theory we note that a “long term effect of media violence exposure on aggression by observational learning that affects one or more of three social-cognitive structures: hostile world schemas (e.g., hostile attribution bias), social problem – solving scripts, and normative beliefs about the acceptability of aggression”. (Anderson, Gentile and Buckley, 2007:9). 

Final comments

As previously suggested (Ybarra, et.al., 2007)., “many types of online behaviors considered risky are becoming normative” in the life of youth.  As we examine online risk, it is necessary to consider that “in general, behaviors manifested by large numbers of people, fail to predict events that are relatively uncommon”. (Wolak, et al. (2008 in Wolak, 2008). In most cases, the online activities and behaviors analyzed in this paper may not always represent a risk in themselves, but the presence of all these factors in one individual is what could be an indicator of dangerous risk levels for that person.

It seems that “Psychosocial factors, family dynamics surrounding particular minor are better predictors of risk than the use of specific media or technologies.  (Enhancing Child Safety & Online Technologies, 2008for Internet & Society at Harvard University, 2008). Unfortunately we don’t have more information about the participants and it is not possible to establish deep conclusions, but the analysis of these cases can encourage the reflection about this issues.

Concerns of adults and authorities regarding the use of new media technologies among youth, in some cases are grounded in fact, and in others cases are due to a generational gap (e.g., different perceptions or attitudes toward technology between youth and older generations).  The implementation of a safe, healthy and balanced use of interactive media technology strategies seriously challenges us to protect youth from possible online dangers without depriving them of online opportunities. We cannot, and should not, avoid embracing the potential of our new digital era.  Rather, we must diligently work to optimize the psychological and social benefits of emerging interactive virtual technologies while finding effective ways to reduce the risks or dangers it can present in some cases.

Appendices

1. Guide lines

1.1 Children guide line

Gender   M   F     Age ____________     Grade________________________

School ___________________________

I. Child Profile

  1. How many hours do you use?

  1. What do you usually do online?

  1.  Where do you usually access internet or gaming?

  2. Do you log in alone?

II. Preferences & Online activity

  1. Could you tell me please what you like most about the internet?

  1. Now could you tell me what you like least about the internet?

  1. Do you reveal to them your real life identity online?

  •  
    1. Posted personal information

    2. Age or year of birth

    3. Real last name, telephone number, school name, or home address

    4. Picture

Optional question:

Do you have online friends?

Have you met these people in RL? No..  Why?

Do you think this is a safe thing to do?

II. Challenges, Risk & impact

  1. Do you think there are dangers or risks in the internet?

  1. Have you ever experienced something that makes you feel bad while you were surfing the internet or while you were gaming?

Optional questions based on their answer:

·         How does it make you feel?

·         Did you tell someone about it?

  1. Did you ever feel worried or threatened because someone was bothering or harassing you online?

  1. Have you ever received nasty comments, threatening or aggressive comments via chat, text message, web pages, or mobile sms? how and what happened?

Optional questions base in the answer:

·         Did you know the sender?

·         What do you think about it?

·         How do you think you could avoid it?

  1. While surfing the internet, or via chat or e-mail, have you been in contact with any web pages that show nudity, drugs, violent or some similar taboo topic?

III. Parents role

  1. How do you think your parents understand/perceive your online activities?

  1. Do you talk with your parents about what you do online?

  1. If for example something happened while you were on the internet, that you think is wrong, unwanted, inappropriate or offensive do you know with whom you can talk about it or where you can ask for help?

1.2 Parents guide line

Age ___________________________ Gender M    F

Children  ___________________

I. Parent profile

  1. Do you use, or are familiar with, any of these applications or concepts?            

a.       Webpage information

b.       Blogging

c.        Forums

d.       Chat

e.        Instant messenger

f.        Online 3d communities

g.        Online Gambling

h.       Other. What _______

  1. How many hours per week do you use the internet?

III. Perceptions or preconceptions about technology

  1. How do you perceive the use of the internet and video games by young people?

IV. Parents role

  1. Do you get involved in the online activities of your child? Yes, No Why

  1. Does your child talk about his/her online activities? Yes, No, why do you think?

V. Child online habits

  1. Where does you child use the internet or gaming frequently or typically?

  1. How many hours per week does your child use internet and/or video games?

VI. Risk management

  1. Do you have strategies to protect your child from his/her online interactivity?

a.       Rules

b.       Filters

c.        Antivirus

d.       Discussion about risk or activities online

e.         

  1. Do you think you child is aware of internet risks?

  1. Do you feel capable of supporting your child in the case he or she presents to you an online problem?

  1. If it was a more serious problem, that you feel you could not resolve in your family, do you know where find help?

2.3. Online Risk  Guide line use during the Interview

Characteristics of Specific Online Behaviors in 2006 detected in 1497 youth adapted from study made by Ybarra, Mitchell et al. 2007.

Online Behavior

Disclosure of personal information

  • Posted personal information

  • Age or year of birth

  • Real last name, telephone number, school name, or home address

  • Picture

Sent personal information

  • Age or year of birth

  • Real last name, telephone number, school name, or home address

  • Picture

  • Sent picture to more 1 person

Harassing behavior

  • Made rude or nasty comments to someone on the Internet

  • Someone else started making the rude and nasty comments

  • Made comments to someone youth knew in person

  • With friends or other kids when did this

  • Made comments to someone youth only knew online

  • Respondent started making the rude and nasty comments

Used Internet to harass or embarrass someone youth was mad at

  • Someone else started making the rude and nasty comments

  • Made comments to someone youth knew in person

  • With friends or other kids when did this

  • Respondent started making the rude and nasty comments

  • Made comments to someone youth only knew online

  • To _1 person

Talking with someone met online

  • Had people on “buddy list” known only online

  • Meeting someone online (number of ways)

  • People met online in other ways (eg, instant messaging)

  • People you get information from

  • People met through online dating or romance sites

  • People met through family

Sexual behavior

  • Talking about sex with someone met online

  • With friends or other kids when doing this

  • Thought person was an adult

  • Adult started the talk about sex first

  • Youth started the talk about sex with the adult

  • Posting a sexual picture of self

  • Sending a sexual picture of self

Pornography seeking

  • Going to X-rated sites on purpose

  • With friends or other kids when doing this

  • Went to site because another kid you knew in person told you about it

  • Went to site because of an online search

  • Went to site because of pop-up advertisements in Web sites

  • Went to site because of spam e-mail

  • Went to site because another kid you met online told you about it

  • Went to site because an adult you met online told you about it

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