Bridging the Digital Divide
Researched by the Inspire Foundation and ORYGEN Youth Health, this report investigates marginalised young people's use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). It explored how young people from a diverse range of backgrounds use technologies such as the Internet, and how this can impact on their mental health and wellbeing.
Participants in the research were from a variety of backgrounds including Indigenous, Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD), disabled and same-sex attracted. Youth service providers were also surveyed.
The report finds that the internet and mobile phones play a much greater role than expected in the lives of young people who are socially, culturally or economically marginalised, and it challenges the concept of the "digital divide" which suggests that marginalised young people’s use of technology is limited. The research indicated that young people who are marginalised and at risk of developing mental health difficulties use the internet as a creative tool to express themselves. Some participants who felt they had few friends in the face-to-face world said they use the Internet to make new friends, which built their confidence and self-esteem.
Among the report's findings:
- Young people from marginalised communities are confident in their computer, internet and photography skills.
- Young people from marginalised communities use instant messaging services, email and social networking sites to communicate, maintain and build new relationships with other young people and significant adults such as their youth worker or teacher. Many have created their own social networking profiles and use them to maintain their offline and online connections.
- Young people are aware of the potential dangers online and have strategies to manage unsolicited contact, meetings in the offline world and cyber or text bullying.
- Service providers feel less confident in their use of ICT’s, particularly their use of creative technologies, and expressed a need for education and training in the the skills to engage young people from marginalised communities in the use of ICT.