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Internet use by teenagers: social inclusion, self-confidence and group identity

Helsper, Ellen (2007) Internet use by teenagers: social inclusion, self-confidence and group identity. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Traditionally, debates about digital exclusion have been concerned with a lack of access to the internet by certain groups. Currently, the debate is shifting towards quality of use. Yet, it remains unclear which processes underlie differences in digital inclusion. By combining macro, micro and meso theoretical perspectives, this thesis examines the influence of resources, context, confidence and social identity through the application of three different research elements: nine preparatory interviews; a survey with 730 students; and an experiment with 200 students from fifteen schools in the Greater London Area. The focus was on teenagers from different gender, ethnicity, physical ability and sexuality groups. The findings show that gender and context are important explanatory factors of internet use. At school, meso (social-identity) factors contributed to explaining internet use; at home, micro (psychological) and macro (resource) factors were more important. This suggests that schools offer equalising environments in which differences in digital inclusion based on socio-economics are evened out. The findings also suggest that personalised and anonymous use at school makes teenagers less vulnerable to peer-pressure. By contrast, anonymity increases undesirable uses at home especially for boys. The experiment shows that addressing teenagers in a neutral (anonymous) way might steer internet behaviour and the perception of skills in a nonstereotypical direction. Finally, the level of digital inclusion at the group level determined the effect of socioeconomic status on internet use. Internet use of (White and Asian boys') groups with high internet status was mainly influenced by macro and micro factors. Group processes and social identification also influenced those (girls, African Caribbean, and disabled) of low internet status. The processes behind internet use were found to be more consistent for digitally advantaged groups than for disadvantaged groups. The thesis concludes that theory regarding digital inclusion should be diversified to address different types of exclusion.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2007 Ellen Johanna Helsper
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Sets: Departments > Media and Communications
Collections > LSE History of Thought theses
Supervisor: Livingstone, Sonia

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