Perspectives on youth
Young people in a digitalised world
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MatinaMagkou, ReinhardSchwalbach and Bram Spruyt
The Perspectives on youth series aims to function as a forum for information, discussion, reflection and dialogue on European developments in the field of youth policy, youth research and youth work.
Following this principle, for the fourth issue of Perspectives on youth, we took a conscious decision to link the publication with the Symposium on Youth Participation in a Digitalised World, a major event of the partnership between the European Commission and the Council of Europe in the field of youth, which took place at the European Youth Centre in Budapest from 14 to 16 September 2015. It was rather a deliberate choice to maximise the impact of the Symposium and the publication in order to give further life to discussions that started with the Symposium as a framework and to invite more people to reflect on the results.
The call for papers invited interested authors to submit proposals touching upon these axes and relate their arguments to one or more of the key messages of the Symposium. The questions we wanted to tackle were:
What is the role and/or form of digital participation in the creation and implementation of a holistic participation agenda for active citizenship among youth?
How can we work towards blended teaching and learning approaches based on participatory principles that incorporate new instruments and educational tools (for example digital tools)?
How can the transition of young people to the labour market be supported for increased, better employment and democratic participation in the economy? What are the skills needed for future jobs? How can we support quality jobs and entrepreneurship initiatives in the digital era?
What approaches, policy efforts or initiatives are taken or should be enhanced to empower and protect young people in the digital era?
How can marginalised and excluded groups of young people be part of the digital era? How can digitalisation help societies become more inclusive regarding vulnerable groups? What challenges and barriers remain?
What is the role of youth work and youth workers as “connectors” and mediators between digital resources, stakeholders and young people?
In attempting to answer the questions above, the authors of the following chapters contribute to building knowledge and/or raising further questions with regard to youth participation in a digitalised world. From different corners of Europe (and beyond) they share with us findings from research, practitioners’ experiences and policy recommendations.
Digitalisation and new media create new opportunities for leisure-time consumption. Typically, this raises questions regarding the relationship between online and offline forms of activity. Does online activity reduce possibilities for offline activity? Or does one type of activity generate spillover effects regarding the other? The chapter “The transformation of young people’s online and offline leisure time, spaces and media use in Hungary”, by Ádám Nagy and Anna Fazekas, addresses these questions from a generational perspective. Building on the work of Mannheim and Prensky it focuses on the leisure-time consumption of so-called “digital natives”. The chapter presents empirical findings of youth research undertaken in Hungary that demonstrate a shift from spending time at shopping malls, typical of Generation Y, to the screen-intensive activities of Generation Z. The findings show how electronic media has become increasingly important in young people’s non-institutionalised leisure time and consider differences in usage between the generations, along with social and emotional backgrounds.
Touching on the topic of the economic sphere and working life Betty Tsakarestou, Lida Tsene, Dimitra Iordanoglou, Konstantinos Ioannidis and Maria Briana discuss the findings of research conducted in Greece focusing on the skills of young leaders in the context of a mobile and entrepreneurial culture. In the chapter “Leading entrepreneurial youth – Leadership and entrepreneurial skills for shaping the markets and the jobs landscape in a mobile and collaborative economy”, the authors compare their findings with similar research undertaken in other European countries and make recommendations for skills development to address this situation.
Including the voice of practitioners has always been an aim of the Perspectives on youth series. In their chapter “Digital and mobile tools and tips for youth eParticipation” Evaldas Rupkus and Kerstin Franzl present the rationale and initial processes behind the project EUth – Tools and Tips for Mobile and Digital Youth Participation in and across Europe, which aims to create a digital and mobile eParticipation toolbox and provide support for those willing to initiate eParticipation processes. The chapter describes what the project offers through its digital online platform OPIN and how one can develop an eParticipation project using this platform.
Daniel Poli and Jochen Butt-Pośnik, in their chapter “Open youth participation – A key to good governance in the 21st century”, take stock of the experience gained through two multilateral co-operation projects to address the issue of open participation. More specifically, they make reference to the project Youthpart, wherein European guidelines were developed for the successful eParticipation of young people and the project Participation of Young People in the Democratic Europe, which focused on the new forms of and forums for participation. Based on these experiences, the authors reflect on what components a “holistic participation agenda” should include.
Social media and the internet offer an avenue of opportunities that young people take up eagerly (as in the Arab Spring and other social movements around the world), although it is not always one paved with roses. The chapter by Karima Rhanem, “Morocco – Digital and social media promote youth citizen engagement in democracy”traces what happened after the Arab Spring in regard to how young Moroccan activists and civil society actors explored the internet and social networking to mobilise, debate and advocate for change. The chapter also explores to what extent these initiatives have influenced policies and raises questions about the ethics of social media use and issues of trust.
For this issue, we invited two people who had a significant role in the Symposium to be part of the editorial team. Manfred Zentner and Adina Marina Călăfăteanu were part of the preparatory team and had written two of the analytical papers that provided knowledge of the Symposium’s thematic areas. They reviewed some chapters and provided comments on how to improve them as well as how the conclusions of the Symposium resonated with them.
Adina Marina Călăfăteanu’s contribution “Online communication tools leading to learning, identity and citizenship for digital natives” is based on the analytical paper she wrote for the Symposium’s thematic area of communication. She approaches the topic by examining the role that identity, citizenship and learning play in shaping the preference of “digital natives”in using non-traditional communication tools and underlines that this needs to be taken into consideration when designing youth policies and engagement strategies for young people.
Going a step further in the discussion regarding education, learning and skills in a digitalised world, Nuala Connolly and Claire McGuinness, in their chapter “Towards digital literacy for the active participation and engagement of young people in a digitalised world”, claim that the original digital divide of physical access to the internet has evolved into a skills divide. They describe the components of and need for meaningful digital literacy education and reflect on the situation around Europe in both formal and informal settings, while highlighting recommendations for policy and practice.
On the one hand, digital literacy allows one to express opinions, share ideas and quickly organise a large number of like-minded people. On the other hand, it carries the risk of online hate speech, bullying and other sorts of crime. We could not close this issue of Perspectives on youth without referring to the No Hate Speech Movement, a flagship campaign of the Council of Europe. Editorial team member Antonia Wulff reflects on the initial stages of the conception of the No Hate Speech Movement, which took place when she was still President of the Advisory Council for Youth (2009-11). The rise of the extreme right, hateful online spaces and discussions and the wish to challenge the view of young people as just victims while exploring new ways of working with and supporting them were the driving factors behind conceptualising the No Hate Speech Movement, endorsed by the Joint Council on Youth and officially launched by the Council of Europe in 2013. Menno Etemma, No Hate Speech Movement co-ordinator on behalf of the Council of Europe, provides a perspective on the campaign, how it relates to the core values and programmes of the Council of Europe, and how to get involved.
Besides Antonia’s and Mennos’s perspectives, we wanted to see how the campaign has been experienced in different countries around Europe. Therefore we asked Manu Mainil from Belgium, Ivett Karvalits from Hungary, Anne Walsh from Ireland and Aleksandra Knežević from Serbia – all campaign co-ordinators in their respective countries – to answer questions on the campaign’s importance, national outcomes and challenges in implementation.
All in all, the contributions in this issue of Perspectives on youth illustrate nicely how the digitalisation of contemporary European societies offers opportunities and poses considerable challenges. While, for example, digitalisation removes formal barriers in terms of time and space, it also increases the risk of self-exclusion and the further homogenisation of social networks. In this way digitalisation bears the potential to both reduce and reinforce existing social inequalities. Similarly, new media and digital techniques allow for different and more accessible forms of learning and participation and provide a stepping stone for those groups that have traditionally faced difficulties in finding opportunities to learn and participate. However, more pessimistic interpretations suggest that new media can contribute to personal isolation and prejudices, reinforcing disillusionment and culminating in a loss of social capital. More examples are offered in the following contributions, but the main message seems to be clear: technical innovations such as digitalisation trends are not intrinsically good or bad. It is what we do with them that really matters.
In conclusion, we want to recognise the important contribution of Hanjo Schild in the making of Perspectives on youth. Hanjo is leaving the Partnership as these words are being written. An enormous thank you goes to him for his engagement, dedication to youth causes, knowledge of the field and warm heart. Hanjo, you are one of a kind and will definitely be missed.
ÁdámNagy and Anna Fazekas
An age group can be considered to be a generation if it is characterised by some common immanent quality, generation knowledge and community feature, and three conditions are necessary for this: common experience; an actual orientation to each other of its members; and a shared interpretation of their situation, attitudes and forms of action (Mannheim 1978). Prensky has interpreted belonging to such an age group in relation to the information society (2001). We consider the development of Prensky’s digital natives-digital immigrants model and incorporate it into the Strauss – Howe model (1991), according to which generation change in Mannheim’s sense takes place in society roughly every 15 to 20 years. Through a theory of socialisation (Nagy 2013b), leisure time and media is seen to play the same role in post-modern society as school socialisation did in modern society and the family did in the pre-modern era. Thus, from the data on youth leisure time we can try to draw a picture of today’s young (Y and Z) generations through their activities and media usage in this regard, confirming the differences between generations. We make use of Hungarian data here, because it derives from large-scale youth research conducted every four years and has been running for one and a half decades (Ifjúság 2000; Ifjúság 2004; Ifjúság 2008; Magyar Ifjúság 2012). This provides an overview of an 8 000-person sample that is representative of age, gender and settlement type in relation to the life situations and way of life of Hungarian youth.
Since the proliferation of information and communication technologies (ICTs), the world of young people has become quite distinct from that of young people from earlier eras. Their time structuring, family, education and labour market status has been transformed; they construct their free time differently and use it for different purposes and have different information-gathering and communication strategies. Their concepts of relationships, community and entertainment have also been transformed. One of the major problems of the information society era is how the generations born into the digital age transform their “knowledge society” and how they are influenced by it (Rab, Székely and Nagy 2008).
According to Mannheim (1978), an age group can be considered to be a generation if it is characterised by some common immanent quality, generation knowledge and community feature, and three conditions are necessary for this: common experience; an actual orientation to each other of its members; and a shared interpretation of their situation, attitudes and forms of action. Mannheim locates generational logic in parallel with the concept of class (i.e. a person does not enter a class but is born to it, and does not step out of it intentionally, only doing so if his/her status changes). This certainly does not mean that in case of the validity of generation logic all members of the age group show specific characteristics, but that a generational pattern exists.
Although the concept and classification of a generation is controversial, the present chapter does not analyse and evaluate their theoretical soundness. It presents the orientations of the different age groups, built on generational logic.2
According to Strauss and Howe’s model (1991), generation change in Mannheim’s sense is cyclical, taking place in society roughly in every 15 to 20 years. Prensky (2001) also interpreted in the generational dimension the relationship with the information society. We reflect on and discuss in this chapter the development3 (Székely 2014) of Prensky’s “digital natives-digital immigrants model” and incorporate it into the Strauss – Howe model.4
Forming the main body of today’s labour market, the members of Generation X were born in the second half of the 1960s and in the 1970s encountered the information technology (IT) toolbox at a young age; they were immersed, from the very start of their lives, in the digital world. They witnessed how computer technology developed into IT, then into the information society. During their lives, the internet has been more or less present. In the West, they have grown up under the impact of electronic media. Its central and eastern European members may have grown up under state socialism, but during its final, liberalising phase.
The members of the age group born in the ‘80s and ‘90s encountered the internet in their childhood; as digital natives, they are confident in the management of tools and in orientating themselves in network space; the digital universe is their natural medium; their web/internet identity is consciously formed. They are characterised by strong media dependence, and they respond quickly to technological changes. This age group is the generation of the information society, as its members naturally started to use ICTs in their childhood. Their social relations are taking place at the same time in real and virtual life; with the usage of mobile phones and the internet, their place dependence is much less than that of previous generations. Generation Y differs in many ways from previous generations: its members are receptive to cultural content; are attracted to group activities and to community space; are performance-oriented, confident and highly qualified (for most, school and good school performance is important). They receive information quickly; they prefer image and sound rather than text; they prefer random contacts (hypertext); they strive for the immediate and frequent satisfaction of their needs; they prefer games instead of “serious” work; and they consider technology a necessary companion (Prensky 2001). Members of this generation are moving with global trends, and are among the first to master the use of new technical devices, sometimes even changing the educational direction; they feel at ease in the digital world: “The Hungarian Generation Y practically caught up with the delays that were common before. Generation Y grew up from being children to being young people after the change of regime; this generation got acquainted with computers and the internet, if not at home, then surely at school” (Székely 2014).5
Members of Generation Z were born at the turn of the millennium and after the year 2000. When they lost their “computer virginity”, they discovered Web 2.06 and the entire social networking space; they do not know what life is like without the internet (or mobile phones); their primary communication tool is no longer e-mail but the social network. This generation is not only characterised by networking behaviour, the use of the internet as a digital socialisation channel, and information consumption, but also provides information services through platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and torrent sites. Their device management is a basic skill; they are characterised by multitasking and parallel actions (writing blogs, listening to music and following e-mail and social network turnover); and they make quick decisions. Generation Z not only embraces ICTs and their associated content, it adapts them to its own needs for everyday life; practically speaking, it is not stationary. At the same time, members “consume” via multiple channels (multitasking); their combined consumption exceeds the quantity “physically” available to one person; and most do not have any reflective awareness of the legal and institutional environment of their typical and regular internet use (for example downloads, exchange of files). In addition, changes in the world not only influence the rational part of their psyche but fundamentally influence their emotional lives, too. Many of them “pour out” their emotional tension without having a cathartic experience (see the term “emotional incontinence”, an expectation that “other people should diaper us emotionally”, coined by Tari in 2010). So we experience our own feelings through them (we can think of one part of the blogosphere and thousands of comments, but also of certain identity situations, relationship aspects or the world of work). As regards Hungary, the former difference between generations – between the West and Hungary – has disappeared; and a sense of global youth culture is developing, as innovations typically appear on the Hungarian market with a few months’ delay.
This refers to those born in 2010 and thereafter, although we do not know yet if they will be distinct from Generation Z, and can be characterised as an autonomous generation in the Mannheimian sense.
In the remainder of this chapter we study the habits in media and leisure-time consumption of young Hungarian people. More specifically, we assess whether there are indeed generational differences. We rely on data from three waves of the Hungarian youth study, run every four years. Ifjúság 2000 can help us investigate Generation X, while Ifjúság 2004 allows us to investigate Generation Y. The unique situation of Generation Z is reflected by the fact that we could only represent a fraction of young people belonging to it.
Thus, Generation X consists of young people born between 1971 and 1980 (N = 5 726); Generation Y consists of those born between 1981 and 1989 (N = 4 254); and the sub-pattern for Generation Z was provided by those born between 1995 and 1997 (N = 1 368).7 As members of Generation X no longer belong to the category of young people, we focus in the empirical analysis mainly on Generations Y and Z. Based on the available data, we studied the media consumption and characteristics of leisure-time preferences of young people of these two generations. Against this background, we addressed the question of whether and how offline leisure-time consumption became less important for Generation Z and to what extent the media, or more precisely the online world, took control of their leisure time. When answering this question we include information from the broader European context by discussing three thematic Eurobarometer publications (Eurobarometer 2003, 2013, 2015). These Eurobarometer data enabled us to compare changes across more than a decade, namely the results of 2002 and 2014, and to study short-term changes in media and leisure-time consumption of young people (based on data from the 2012 and 2014 queries).
In 2014, 63 % of the EU population used the internet daily or almost on a daily basis; this number was 19 percentage points lower in 2002 (Eurobarometer 2003, 2015) (Figure 1).8 In 2002, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden were at the forefront in this area, while in 2014, European internet use was highest in Sweden and the Netherlands. In contrast, in 2002 Greece, Italy and Ireland had the lowest internet penetration. In 2014, internet use was least common in Romania, with only a third of the population visiting a virtual space at least once a day. During the 12-year observation period, France has made the greatest progress: the number of daily internet users increased by 36 percentage points between 2002 and 2014. A similar, albeit somewhat less pronounced, evolution characterised the Netherlands, Sweden and Ireland. In contrast, Portugal experienced a minimal increase (about 8 percentage points) with respect to the use of the online space.
Changes in daily or almost daily internet use in EU member states, 2002-14 (% among people older than 15)
Source: Eurobarometer 2003, 2015
If we focus on the internet use of young citizens living in the EU, we find a 50 percentage-point increase in daily internet users during the 12-year period of observation. Indeed, whereas in 2002 only about 42 % of 15- to 24-year-olds used the internet on a daily basis, this number rose to 92 % in 2014 (Eurobarometer 2003, 2015). Because older age groups did not experience a similar increase in their internet use, the 12-year period saw also the growth of an age gap in terms of internet use. Whereas in 2002 age differences were very small, in 2014 daily internet use of the youngest cohort was about 60 percentage points higher when compared with the oldest (55+) cohort (Figure 2).9
Changes in daily or almost daily internet use in the EU by age group, 2002-14 (% among people older than 15)
Source: Eurobarometer 2003, 2015
Recent studies have also identified more short-term trends. Europeans in the EU increasingly use the internet outside home. Whereas in 2012 about 80 % of internet use took place at home (Eurobarometer 2012), this percentage decreased to 74 % by 2014 (Eurobarometer 2015). This change is mainly due to the increased popularity of portable devices combined with the development and availability of Wi-Fi systems in public places. While desktops and laptops remain by far the devices most used to access the internet (92 % of Europeans using the internet relied on a desktop or laptop in 2014), about 61 % of Europeans entered virtual space by means of a smartphone, while 30 % used a tablet. In 2012, only 6 % of people living in the EU used a tablet, and 24 % used smartphones (Eurobarometer 2013). We also find a clear age gap. No age differences are found between desktop and laptop use, but the age differences in accessing the internet by means of smartphones or tablets are substantial (Eurobarometer 2013, 2015), particularly with the former (Figure 3).
Changes in use of the internet on smartphones in the EU by age group, 2012-14 (% among people older than 15)
Source: Eurobarometer 2013, 2015
The most popular online activities are exchanging e-mails and reading news, closely followed by visiting social network sites and online shopping (Eurobarometer 2015) (Figure 4). Over half use online banking, but gaming engages the attention of only 3 out of 10 users. The least frequently practised online activities are online shopping and watching TV. When it comes to young people, virtual space is predominantly used for communication purposes: e-mailing and visiting social network sites are the most common online activities. In addition, collecting information, online gaming and shopping are also frequently performed activities in cyberspace. The age gap is most pronounced for visiting social network sites, watching television and gaming (more popular among young people) and banking (more popular among older respondents).
Popularity of online activities in the EU, 2014 (% among people older than 15 and young people/15 to 24 years old)
Source: Eurobarometer 2015
Regarding the leisure time of the formerly young people of Generation X we can say, first, that they are dominated by offline activities. This is primarily due to the fact that in 2000, only 8 % of the families of young people had internet access at home (Ifjúság 2000). At that time, one third (34 %) of Hungarians who belonged to Generation X believed that neither they nor their families needed the World Wide Web, irrespective of whether the household had a computer or not. When the members of Generation X were young, they used the computer mostly at home (30 %) or at the school/workplace (37 %); the options provided by public spaces were only an alternative for a few people (3 %). People who did not have a computer justified the lack in terms of costs: 65 % did not have internet access because of the high subscription fees. More generally, the number of consumer devices was quite low. Only 32 % of Generation X youngsters had their own TVs, and only 34 % of them had their own mobile phones. While there was a TV in 95 % of the families of young people, mobile devices could be found only in half of the families.
Moreover, only 5 % of the young people of Generation X were in the best position (referring to the ownership of audiovisual/digital devices), because they had their own televisions, owned mobile phones and had home internet access at the turn of the millennium. The proportion of those having their own mobile phones and colour television was 13 % (there are only two variables here).11 The possession of media assets was strongly correlated with financial situation: those with a better financial situation were three times more likely to own mobile phones and colour televisions when compared to their poorer peers. At the turn of the millennium, young people belonging to Generation X spent most of their free time at cinemas and bookstores (Table 1). They also regularly visited libraries, cultural institutions and museums and attended concerts. In contrast, only half of the age group attended clubs or dance parties, and the citadels of high culture (theatre, concerts) fell almost entirely outside the sphere of young people’s recreational spaces.
Source: Ifjúság 2000
Among leisure-time activities, reading newspapers, listening to the radio and watching TV were the most prevalent. Newspapers appeared to be more popular than books: the former were read by 74 % (several times a week) of young people belonging to Generation X, while the latter were read regularly by 22 %.13 It is important to note, however, that 7 % of the youth of Generation X did not read newspapers at all and 8 % did not read books. Listening to the radio on weekdays was more popular than watching television: on average they spent roughly 2.5 hours a week listening to the radio (151 minutes on average), and about the same time during the weekend (153 minutes on average). Watching television on weekdays (133 minutes on average) was less important compared to the weekends (205 minutes on average).
In 2004, 55 % of Generation Y youth had up to three hours of free time; 39 % had four to eight hours of free time after having fulfilled their obligations. In contrast, young people had more free time during the weekend: 42 % had half a day at their disposal, and 29 % had no obligations at all. As for recreational spaces, spending time at home was the most popular activity (Table 2). On weekdays and during the weekends, the youth of Generation Y spent their free time mostly at home. During the weekend, however, going out was more common. The same applies to meeting friends and relatives, visiting clubs and going on trips.14