Sociologie Românească (Romanian Sociology), Vol. XII, no. 3/2014, pp. 6-25.
The virtual environment: dangerous or not? Perceptions and representations of the online experiences among children and adolescents
Abstract: The Internet and new media are now part of some broad changes that have occurred lately related to how individuals engage in knowledge assumption and production, interaction and information seeking. While digital media are gaining more visibility and attention, both because their associated beneﬁts and inherent dangers, a generation of youngsters is growing up in an era dominated by technological advances that might produce experiences of different kinds in their developmental processes. Although the higher use of the Internet has been accompanied by numerous hopes related to the positive outcomes it might stand for, feelings of fear and panic have also come into play when referring to the child-virtual environment alchemy. This is particularly true in the case of adults’ and public policy representatives’ perceptions of young people as inexperienced users who might easily become targets of the online dangers. Based on three focus-group discussions and using a child-centered approach, this paper presents the perspectives of 24 school teens aged 9-16 who make use of the Internet at least once a week, and explores how they actually embed this into their daily lives, and how they understand and manage risks by themselves. Comparing the answers of three samples of pupils using a focus-group approach, this analysis allowed capturing various interpretations and perceptions related to the online dangers that might occur while exploring the virtual space, by positioning young people at the center of discussions.
Keywords: online risks; online environment; identity formation; parental mediation.
Cuvinte-cheie: riscuri online; mediul online; construcţie identitară; mediere parentală.