How good is the internet? A perspective of Internet use and gratification

scan0003 scan0006Rotaru Ileana (2016). How good is the internet? A perspective of Internet use and gratiofocation) in  Current Challenges in Social Sciences  (eds. Olah S.,G. Roseanu, S.Bodogai, L.Coturbas ), Editura Presa Universitara Clujeana, Cluj-Napoca, p238-244

 

The present research aims to identify the perception of Internet use and types of gratification that children (6-10 years old) have comparing to other media (television). Our research questions involve children’s preference for one media or the other, types of activities, time spent (and educational barriers, parents’ interdiction etc.), period of time. The sample is local limited and is consisted of qualitative bases, rather than quantitative data. The theoretical background is given by the studies of S. Livingston (2010, 2013), D. Buckingham’s media education theory (2013) or A. Hepp’s theory of culture of mediatization (2013). The research results will be used to develop further educational training programs for parents and teachers in order to give them proper tools of addressing the issue of children and the internet.

 

Introduction The children’s mediatized world

The paper is based on the principle of media coverage, of a universe not characterized only on one type of media dominant, mainly on the idea that mediatized worlds are interconnected, these cross their path by a great variety of factors. The research realized proves, at a small scale, under a qualitative aspect, the segmentation of the mediatized world for small children (4-6 years old), thus confirming the statement that the segmentation process represents a re-invention process, a transgression from a mediatized universe to another (Hepp, 2013, 7).

The second concept on which the theoretical research is based is the Figurations one, introduced by Norbert Elias (1978) and which implies the need for an integrative concept that helps analyze the (changing) communicative construction of certain mediatized worlds across the variety of different media. Hepp (2013, 8) sustains that a communicative figuration is seldom based on only one medium; it usually is based on several media. Examples would be: for the communicative figuration of families, a figuration which is increasingly scattered translocally, the (mobile) telephone is just as important as the social web, (digital) photo albums, letters, postcards or watching TV together. If we take public spheres as communicative figurations, it is quite easy to see that these are constituted by a range of different media. That is not only a matter of the classical media of mass communication, but also of Wikileaks, Twitter, and blogs, together with the media of the social web. Thus, the role of communicative structure, in this case, of the family is one that transcends only one medium, the family and the determined social relations include a convergence and a submersion of different media, contributing considerably to the maintaining and development of these relations.

Not least, the theoretical basis is also formulated and the classical theory of uses and gratifications, underlining that the attachment for the idea that what children make out of media and not what media makes of children, thus explaining a paradigm overturn in the domain of media effects.

This paper contains a research with the purpose to identify the manner in which children (4-6 years old) interpret the mediatized world, formulated by the use of internet in day to day life and the identification of the device/medium preferred as entertainment (game) means. The research hypothesis was that the mediatized world surrounding us determines a high preference for the use of new media (tablet, laptop etc.), which leads to a decrease in use of traditional media (television). In the same manner, the second research hypothesis refers to the fact that new media (tablet, laptop, Smartphone) will be situated in the top preferred toys, keeping in mind that the main activity realized at this age is the ludic one (games), as recent studies prove (Velicu, Mitarca, 2016).

 

 

Research methodology

Regarding the research methods used, the use of thematic drawing/graphics was considered to be useful, due to the fact that this data collection method is better adapted to the same age group (4-6 years). The sample used was a small scale one and was formed of 9 preschoolers (5 boys and 4 girls), from the same classroom, at the normal schedule kindergarten, in the urban area. The research was realized in two stages, during the months of May-June 2016 and contained two sets of results, on the basis of two sets of objectives researched.

 

Data interpretation

When talking about the first objective of the research, the interpretation of the mediatized world, the description of the child’s ludic universe, the following task was demanded as expressing theme by drawing: Draw the toy you love to play with more. Which is your favorite toy? From the 9 drawings realized, only one graphically represented a tablet/TV with the favorite characters from Star Wars. The children drew on the other papers, toys that were proper for their ages: film/cartoon character toys, cars, collectables, balloons and animals.

In the case of the second objective of this research, the identification of the means (device) most used by children What do you like best to play with? What device do you use more often? Choosing from the TV, the tablet and the laptop/calculator, the results indicated a significant preference for the tablet, 2 of them using the tablet and the TV at the same time, 1 using the tablet and the laptop and 1 the computer and the TV. According to the interpretation of drawings, it results that the tablet registers the highest rate in the play preferences of children (4-6 years old), fact which proves a development of leisure time practice in the family of this activity and a spread use of the tabled among children. Regardless all these, the use of the tablet does not exclude the use of other devices.

The limit of this research aimed at the identification of use means for devices of new media and of the internet, from the point of view of their use form (gaming) according to the age of the children sampled. For a more profound interpretation of the perception means and for a detailing of the use forms, the need for qualitative methods used in supplementary analysis is taken into consideration. Still, the results may be correlated to other researches on the effects these devices have on receptors, especially when the age of the persons interviewed is a small one, demanding appropriate intervention and interpretation methods and strategies.

Conclusions

One of the most important conclusions is that the submersion in a mediatized world is realized since early childhood in an environment controlled by adults, under the form of an access to a certain type of entertainment, as rewarding system. The interpretation of data, of the two sets of drawings, proves that the children’s game preferences, even if these occupy an important role in their daily lives, are oriented towards common, face-to-face and concrete social relations. The results of this research confirms, in general, the results of a larger research realized in the Romanian cultural space (Velicu, Mitarca, 2016).

The hypotheses elaborated confirmed the media convergence with the children’s universe, who have the tendency of using them simultaneously. New devices and the internet don not replace traditional games. Moreover, certain devices (the tablet) are not associated with the representation of the toy. These represents a method of spending their leisure time and are mainly managed by adults (permissiveness/control, duration, form of interaction, property etc.). At early ages, the use of new devices (as the tablet, the Smartphone or the laptop) is controlled in a certain measure by adults and it is largely spread as activity (the children’s familiarization with these devices is observed – the personalization of the desktop, as for example the use of bright colors, of details). In the same manner, the children’s preferences regarding the shape of games is oriented towards direct and non-mediated relations (dolls, cars, balloons etc.), determined by a need of physical affection.

The proposals resulting from this research may have a large applicability. With the hope that this paper can offer support to parents and educations, it will help them become aware of the risks and of the opportunities supposed by the use of the internet and of media devices. The need to introduce new training/mediation programs for children and for adults (teachers and parents) for the use of the internet and of new devices with educational purposes for children.

It is also our opinion that through mediation and professional training the relation inside the family and inside the classroom is improved by fighting against negative stereotypes regarding digital culture and the promotion of a media and digital competence correlated with the child’s needs and the stage of his psycho-socio-physical development. Media education (Buckingham, 2013) represents an active response to the new challenges of the society.

In addition, the need for the implementation of media/media pedagogy education programs in Romanian educational facilities is mentioned, for children and for adults: didactic personnel and parents.

 

References

Buckingham, D. (2013). Teaching the creative class? Media education and the media industries in the age of ‘participatory culture’. Journal of Media Practice 14(1): 25-41.

Elias, Norbert (1978): What is Sociology? London: Hutchinson.

Hepp, A. (2013).  The communicative figurations of mediatized worlds: Mediatization research in times of the ‘mediation of everything, Published by the „Communicative Figurations“ research network, ZeMKI, Centre for Media, Communication and Information Research

Livingstone, S. (2013) Online risk, harm and vulnerability: Reflections on the evidence base for child internet safety policy. ZER: Journal of Communication Studies, 18: 13-28.

Velicu A., Mitarca M. (2016). Copiii mici si tehnologiile digitale (0-8 ani). Un studiu exploratoriu calitativ. Rezultate preliminare pentru România

To be cited:

Rotaru Ileana (2016). How good is the internet? A perspective of Internet use and gratiofocation) in  Current Challenges in Social Sciences  (eds. Olah S.,G. Roseanu, S.Bodogai, L.Coturbas ), Editura Presa Universitara Clujeana, Cluj-Napoca, p238-244

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