The cross : What does the telephone represent for teenagers?
Barbara Fontar: Undoubtedly the symbol of their emancipation with regard to institutions, family and school, the symbol of their entry into adolescence. Or rather, for some, in pre-adolescence. Most of the time, parents give their child a phone when he arrives in sixth grade, but this can happen, more rarely, from CM1 or CM2.
It is not necessarily a smartphone. It is often, at the beginning, a simple telephone with buttons which makes it possible to place calls and to send SMS. For parents, the telephone is a way to support empowerment, while feeling reassured, because they can know where their child is, who can always be reached. Teenagers see it as a good deal, which offers them freedom of movement, without physical supervision.
Has the telephone dethroned other objects that may have embodied previous generations of young people?
BF: Yes, to each generation its object. For my mother, it was the transistor, with which she walked around the house. For me, it was the Walkman. For today’s teenagers, it’s clearly the smartphone. With, of course, the conviction that previous generations belong to a form of prehistory: we are always the oldest of the youngest!
How does the rapid development of communication technologies affect youth cultures, of which you are a specialist?
BF: Youth cultures appeared in the 1960s with the massification of schooling and the appearance of youth as a social category in its own right, a category of people who are not yet working, who are learning and studying. These cultural practices have evolved over time but still have in common the search for an inter-self, with clothes, language codes that are specific to them. With also the desire to prolong the time of sociability as much as possible.
When I was young, in the 1980s, I came home from college and used the landline to call my girlfriends. At the end of 1990, beginning of 2000, young people began to send each other text messages. But in both cases, it was very expensive. What today’s technologies change is the possibility of a permanent connection, generally included in the package. There is thus a continuity in the practices. But these technological developments also allow the deployment of very different forms and cultural products, in other words a great diversity of youthful subcultures, where, in the 1960s, a single radio program, “Salut les buddies”, brought together a large part of the youth.