Intergenerational attitudes towards social networking and cybersafety: a living lab

Social media Cyber safety Information technology Mental health Australia
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Research has shown that young people are much better equipped to deal with online risks than adults assume and that young people themselves are the most valuable resource for adults concerned about the online safety of their children.

The research also reveals significant benefits to young people through social networking, which helps them to build relationships with the world around them and increases their sense of community and belonging.

This project aimed to investigate the intergenerational dynamics shaping attitudes towards and usage of social networking services (SNS) and cybersafety. The project entailed establishing a 'living lab' experiment in which four young people designed and delivered a 3 hour workshop on social networking and cybersafety for adult participants. Researchers observed the living lab in process in order to document and analyse the intergenerational conversations.

The key findings addressed three main questions and can be summarised as follows:

  1. What is the nature and scope of adults’ concerns about young people’s use of social networking services?
  2. What is the nature and scope of young people’s understanding about the risks and opportunities of SNS and related practices?
  3. What are potentially effective ways to overcome generational knowledge gaps about young people’s social networking practices and their relationship to cybersafety?

The findings of this project demonstrate that a series of guiding principles should be applied in the development of future cybersafety education models. Future models must: be developed in partnership with young people and acknowledge their expertise; be experiential as opposed to didactic; combine online and face-to-face delivery; have scope to meet the specific technical skills needs of adults, as well as providing capacity for high level conversations about the socio-cultural dimensions of young people's technology use; and be flexible and iterative so that they can keep pace with the emergence of new online and networked media technologies and practices.

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