Culturally and linguistically diverse young people and digital citizenship: a pilot study

Digital communications Social media Information literacy Immigration CALD Digital literacy Victoria

This project explored how culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) young people (16 to 25 years old) in Victoria, Australia use digital and mobile technologies to participate in key domains of citizenship: that is, social, economic, political, and cultural domains. The project also explored the relationship between CALD parents’ and their children’s use of digital and mobile technologies. The project used an online survey and focus groups with a total of 203 CALD people participating in the project. 175 young people participated in the online survey and 20 young people and 8 parents in the focus groups.

This project suggests that, overall, CALD young people are highly engaged in civic practices through digital technologies, participating across all key domains of citizenship: social, political, cultural, and economic life. The project also shows that they are aware of online security risks and safety issues and have developed various ways of negotiating these issues. However, the focus groups suggest that digital access is uneven along class and generational lines rather than ethnic lines. The focus groups suggest that newly arrived migrants, refugees and asylum seekers may have less access than CALD young people in more established migrant communities, who tend to have similar digital access to young people in general.

Digital access includes physical access to digital technologies, as well as, the skills, literacy, and knowledge to use these. Except for one individual, all CALD young people that participated in the survey or focus groups had access to a mobile phone and at least one computer at home or school. Newly arrived CALD parents had uneven digital access, owing to differences in digital skills and digital literacy.

CALD young people tended to use their mobile phones for socialising and networking, while they tended to use their computers for studying and entertainment.

CALD young people tended to be self-sufficient in terms of learning about the internet. Almost three-quarters (74%) are self-taught with only one-tenth (10%) having learnt about the internet or digital devices at school. If they encounter a problem online, most would do their own research or ask a friend. Only 15% would ask a family member for help while none said they would go to a teacher or an IT professional for help.

When asked about posting regularity, one-fifth of young CALD participants post things online daily or several times a day. The majority will post approximately once a month (44%) or once a week (24%), and 10% say they will not post anything online.

CALD young people had positive experiences with the internet as a place where they could learn new skills (45%), increase their confidence (13%), make new friends (10%) or contribute to something positive (10%) by being active online. Nevertheless, some showed awareness for the downsides of the internet as a space of distraction from their education (10%) or generally about the dangers of spending too much time online.

Participants in the CALD parents focus group, newly arrived parents from Thailand and Burma, reported limited digital access in terms of skills and knowledge.

Differences in digital access were notable between newly arrived migrants with refugee backgrounds compared to international students and more established migrants. While all newly arrived young people participating in the focus groups had access to digital technologies, there were differences in digital skills and knowledge due primarily to differences in education and to some extent on gender. Yet there were no significant differences in digital access between newly arrived migrants and more established migrants in the survey. This may be because many of the newly arrived migrants in the survey were international students. These differences suggest that economic, more so than racial/ethnic, differences impact upon digital access for young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds living in Victoria. This recognises socio-economic status is interlinked with mode of arrival and length of time in Australia, and some ethnic groups may be over-represented in these.

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