9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN04 Sociology of Children and Childhood

2009-09-05 13:30:00 2009-09-05 15:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 13:30 - 15:00 POSTER SESSION Building II, C6.01

Digital divides and new "private" frontiers: children and the internet

Contemporary discussions on children's uses of the internet is very often centred in three main problems. First, in a scenario of a recent and intense ICT diffusion in schools and families (specially those with children), sociologists sustain that the main digital divide between children is no longer found in the access (in "haves and have nots"), but has been transferred to the modes of appropriation, the quality of its use. Second, essentialist perspectives concerning technology are to be denounced, because context matters: gender, social origins, age are factors that introduce inequality and diversity in practices and values. Third, technological innovation and privatization, encouraged by competitive market prices and parents' ambition to provide their children with educational tools and a safe environment, contributed to undermine traditional frontiers between public/private spheres and reinforce the dominant ideology opposing stranger-dangers domains vs. the sanctified home.

Inspired in these three theoretical axes, this paper discusses Portuguese children's uses, appropriations and representations about internet. It is based on the data of a survey launched in May-June 2008, applied to 3049 children (aged 8-17 years old) studying in public and private schools located in contrasting areas of the country. It is particularly focused on the results of a cluster analysis, through which three user profiles emerged: "the diligent student", "the tenacious player" and the "all-round cybernaut". The profiles are analyzed and their association with contextual and structural variables is illustrated, in order to demonstrate that (i) children's internet uses, appropriations and representations are not just individual or technological affairs (ii) in Portuguese late modern society inequalities still exist at the level of access, although diversity concerning uses are prominent (iii) home frontiers are under intense transformation, due to the new roles children actively play in the internet.