The cross: What are the digital practices of adolescents?
Barbara Fontar: These practices vary according to the moments of the life and the social situations. The first use, the one that worries adults so much, is entertainment. Screens are an extraordinary support for decompression in the face of increasingly strong academic pressure. Adolescents decompress and have fun with different types of content and different screens: videos on the smartphone, video games on the computer, series on platforms and on television or even reality TV shows.
→ ANALYSIS. Smartphone, tablet, television … In families, everyone has their own screen
The second use is sociability through social networks. They find friends from college or high school, essentially, with whom they extend the bond after class via Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok or WhatsApp. What the parents also did, in lesser amounts, by telephone, when they were teenagers.
Finally, the third digital practice is information and documentation, for homework, of course, but also to learn or develop a passion.
Are there any differences between girls and boys?
BF: Overall, we can say that girls and boys have the same cultural practices around screens. But if we take a closer look, we see that these uses are still very gendered, as are many leisure practices.
This is particularly noticeable in video games, where girls and boys tend to adhere to publishers’ editorial strategies and play games intended for them. College girls, for example, prefer dance movement games, such as Just dance, and boys of the same age from fighting games, like Fortnite. When girls play so-called boy games, they run the risk of being stigmatized by the latter, who deem them incompetent. They themselves devalue themselves and leave the expertise to them.
From what age do they have an individual screen?
BF: It depends a lot on families, but we know that arriving at college now justifies the individual smartphone. Parents want to be able to call their preteen who becomes more independent. But that doesn’t mean they’re going to give it to him around the clock. On the contrary. Many families are putting in place real parental control strategies, with a reflection on the place of the computer in the house and whether or not the phone is allowed in the bedroom. However, the lack of digital skills can limit the reach of these strategies.
→ TESTIMONIALS. These screens that punctuate the life of families
As for the time spent in front of the screen, it depends on the age. At 17, we do not have the same practices as at 12 and counting the number of hours for all adolescents does not make much sense. Consumption increases with age. And also depends on the socio-cultural environment. The more popular the environment, the more screens are used as the only means of access to entertainment, information and culture. This is not the case in privileged circles.