This report sets out the findings of an exploratory qualitative research study that examined the attitudes and experiences of children, youth and parents relating to networked communications technologies. Using a semi‐structured interview guide, we conducted a total of 12 qualitative group sessions in Calgary, Toronto and Ottawa, with young people ages 11‐17 and with parents of children and youth ages 11‐17. A total of 66 young people and 21 parents participated in this research.
Parenting in a Networked World
The parents we spoke with were beleaguered by fear of danger and exhausted from the burden of constant vigilance. Although the exact nature of that danger is poorly defined, many parents told us that surveillance is now equated with good parenting, and that the days of trusting their children and providing them with space to explore the world and make mistakes are long gone.
Many talked about spying on their children, both directly and through surveillance intermediaries. There were a handful of parents, however, who trusted their children and felt that this kind of invasive parenting was harmful. Even the parents who advocated spying on their kids were ambivalent about it and worried about the effect it would have on their relationships with their children. But in spite of their discomfort, they argued that they had no choice, especially because they could not rely on the school system or online corporations to help protect their children.
From our participants’ perspective, schools were particularly problematic. They felt that schools were often requiring their children to use the Internet for assignments and homework, but were not necessarily doing enough to prepare them to deal with the pitfalls. The corporations that own the sites their children visit were also seen as untrustworthy because they were encouraging kids to disclose “everything” in order to make a profit.
Life in the Fish Bowl – the Children’s View
The young people we spoke with told us that, from their perspective, the Internet is now a fully monitored space where parents, teachers and corporations keep them under constant surveillance. Many of our participants told us that parental monitoring is the price of admission; unless they give their parents their online passwords and “friend” them on Facebook, they are not allowed to use networked devices.