Internet, children and space: Revisiting generational attributes and boundaries

Almeida, Delicado, Alves, & Carvalho

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Almeida, A. N. de, Delicado, A., Alves, N. de A., & Carvalho, T. (2015). Internet, children and space: Revisiting generational attributes and boundaries. New Media & Society, 17(9), 1436–1453.

Children , Communication , Everyday Life , Hybrid Spaces , Internet , Public Sphere , Social Networks

At the dawn of modernity, in the 18th century, space became a critical category in defining generational attributes and locations. However, borders that previously tightly isolated adults and children are nowadays continuously challenged and modified by a constant and ubiquitous use of new information and communication technologies, namely the Internet, blurring notions of ‘private’ and ‘public’, ‘outdoors’ and ‘indoors’, ‘real’ and ‘virtual’. Giving voice to children, this article explores qualitative empirical data from a research project carried out in Portugal. It focuses on children as subjects and actors of these processes, especially in the way they combine ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ space and place in a geography of their own.

Main finding
Childrens' access to the internet represents a significant change in the social borders that previously isolated children and adults. This study demonstrates three notable changes to childhood experience via internet use: (a) greater connection to larger global domains than otherwise possible; (b) borders between online and offline experiences are increasingly porous, permeable, and discontinuous; and (c) online navigation typically allows more freedom of movement and connection to the “adult” public sphere than in the “real” world.

Description of method used in the article
Semi-structured interviews of children (N = 158, 50/50 boys and girls, ages 8-17) with Internet connections who live in Portugal. The interviews averaged 45 minutes each and were carried out in schools (in Lisbon, Oporto, and Viseu, Portugal) and consisted of sections related to (a) technological objects at home, (b) internet uses and routines, (c), rules of use, and (d) sources of learning and objectives. Parent’s education level (63.3% without college degree, 36.7% with college degree) is used as a proxy for “social class.”

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