A study carried out in Spain on the digital breach between adults and young people revealed that teens see the online world as an extension of reality, while adults use the internet as a tool.
Sociologist Jordi Busquet of the Ramon Llull University said that for teens, both real-life and virtual interactions are “two parallel realities that form part of their own lives.”
Sixty adults and 120 students were interviewed for the study, which was conducted over three years at schools in Barcelona, Madrid, Zaragoza, Seville and Santiago de Compostela.
Busquet said the analysis found that young people integrate online social networks into their daily lives, to such a degree that “there is little difference” between what they post on Facebook and how they act day to day.
Although the study did not focus on addictions, it found that many young people cannot live without social networks to the point that they make themselves available for contact “all day long.”
It also concluded that although young people are careful not to accept people they do not know as friends, they tend to be careless about their image because “they are not conscious that it is a public and not a private space.”
This naiveté, Busquet added, often leads them post photos that can affect their reputation and “can be jeopardizing in the long run,” such as when the time comes to look for a job.
The study also addressed the disconnect between adults and young people by showing that other variables separate them besides age, such as their level of education and their economic status.
It found that adults who have not mastered the new technologies tend to react in one of two ways – either neglecting their role as parents or establishing prohibitions.
Busquet said it is best that adults “accompany” young people in their technological lives, even if it is difficult, since fear and prohibitions only serve to undermine trust with teens.
The study also found that families tend to be “much more positive” in their attitudes about the internet than schools, which have a more conservative and reluctant stance.
Many schools have modernized in technology but not in their teaching methods and have “turned their backs on the social networks.” This can threaten the authority of teachers, Busquet said, as students tend to be very critical of teachers who don’t know how to use new technologies.