Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe
On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751
VAN DER MERWE, Petro and JANSEN, Cecelia. An explorative study of adolescents' internet usage and the identification of possible risk factors regarding their psychosocial wellbeing. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2015, vol.55, n.3, pp.490-506. ISSN 2224-7912. http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/2224-7912/2015/V55N3A11.
The world in which children grow up today is increasingly multimodal due to ever new technologies. These technologies shape what it means to be literate in the 21st century as it continues to impact on how information is communicated and exchanged. This naturally determines the skills adolescent learners need - and raises the question whether the current media literacy curriculum for secondary schools recognises these all-important skills. Teachers cannot afford to ignore or trivialise the complex social, intellectual and emotional functions of digital technologies in the lives of young people. In order to reach today's learners, teachers need to be responsive to learners' experience with their culture - which is what they experience through television, movies, YouTube, the internet, Facebook, music and gaming. When teachers learn more about learners' choices, the first thing they will notice is the vast difference between their own as opposed to their learners' frames of reference. When it comes to media and technology, every two years brings a new set of changes in the landscape of their daily life. Even if a teacher is only a few years older than his or her learners, there may be important differences because technology tools are changing at such a rapid pace. That is why it is imperative that teachers keep abreast of the latest information about the different media and technology choices learners make at home (and at school) on a daily basis. The effective development of digital media literacy in secondary schools should be seen as a process of professional, interprofessional and curricular development as much as learner development. This study reminds us that digital media literacy is multidimensional. The nature and extent of the digital media literacy an individual needs and develops largely depend on the purposes for which they use new media. Different social groups may also require different forms of digital media literacy, depending on their motivations for new media use. Teachers therefore need to guard against a reductive or mechanistic approach when assessing the levels of digital media literacy in adolescent learners. The digital media generation is no better and no worse than any other generation, but, like every other preceding generation, it is unique. Consequently, this generation requires a unique brand of education that will enable them to realise their personal dreams and serve the society of which they are a part. The media literacy education secondary schools offered in previous generations, whether successful or not, will not suiffice for this generation of adolescents. They are different, as their times are different. Although the internet has infinite advantages, it also poses many dangers, including victimisation of adolescents and the development of psychosocial problems. This research shows to what extent South African adolescents are engaged in online activities that pose risks, to what extent their parents are aware of it and are able to eliminate those threats, as well as the necessity of digital media literacy education that focuses specifically on emotional intelligence, a prerequisite for adequate social adjustment. Because very little information about South African adolescents' digital media lives, and parents' knowledge of their adolescents' activities in cyberspace is avaialable, the researchers compiled parent and learner questionnaires in order to obtain such information. Adolescents are young. They are at an age where they are grappling with who they are, experimenting with all sorts of identities, while dealing with intensified libidinal and aggressive drives. And cyberspace is the perfect place to give their whirlwind of emotions free rein. They do not fully understand the ramifications of some of their actions. The misperception of invisibility and lack of tangible feedback on the consequences of these actions negatively impact on their behaviour. The research showed that adolescents today need a type of education that promotes their emotional intelligence. This will enable them to establish and strengthen healthy relationships - in the online as well as the real world.
Keywords : adolescence; internet usage; emotional and interpersonal skills; social adjustment; emotional intelligence; digital media literacy.