06 SES 09, Children, Internet Safety and Media Education
Families in the Western hemisphere are increasingly becoming places where children learn to argue and negotiate their positions, their rights and leeways. The use of media: comics, magazines and popular reading, and later radio and television became the focus of parent regulation of consumption. Since the video games arrived, then computers and online gaming, on a number of media platforms have enlarged the selection of media to consume and expanded the contexts of enjoyment: LAN parties, gatherings, online chats, etc. Parent resistance towards the growing influence of media has often been interpreted as "media panic". In addition to acquiring proper technological devices, and covering the costs, the amount of use, the kinds of software and content and character of the games are now essential themes in the negotiation processes between children and parents.
The paper will bring results from a cross-cultural investigation of how parents in South Korea, Norway and Sweden experience the negotiations with their children about gaming and media consumption in general. Interviews with parents (N=25), a literature review of comparative family sociology, as well as literature on the diagnosis of challenges to the families in post-modern times will be analysed. Important items are how parents see their roles and tasks in monitoring children lives, how they see children's digital participation in gaming and social media as possibly adequate or inadequate for their formal education. We will identify how parents find support and seek consolation in dealing with excessive use, and which sentiments and physical adjustments they use in their negotiation strategies.
The hypothesis is that parents, in general, are experiencing a great deal of insecurity as to identifying principles and manageable regulations at hand for their parenting responsibility. The pre-figurative pressure expounded by the schools, ICT-experts and politicians in these matters, is generally experienced as deflating parent authority. Expressing "media panic" is not deemed acceptable or fashionable. The advice offered by media specialists is generally smug and complacent to the blessings of gaming and excessive media consumption. The futures of teaching and learning are often depicted as very different from what parents experienced, and hence the parental expertise is granted little value. The school authorities' emphasis on the secure use of the Internet on one hand and the encouragement to join the children in their virtual worlds on the other, is seen more as an invitation to confusion and bewilderment, than being practical and useful.
Although parents expect their children to gradually gain independence and establish a lifeworld where they decide their own future, they think that their lack of influence on their children usage of media, and gaming, in particular, differ significantly from their own experience of growing up. This is a common feature of Nordic and South Korean parents alike.While South Korean family values are strongly associated with Confucianism and strong relationships between generations, the dilemmas between the "prefigurative pressure" and the distancing of the media as a valid agent for socialization causes distress and anxiety. Elements of distrust towards gaming as a phenomenon seems stronger with South Korean parents than with Nordic parents, who seem to trust the experts in schools and media more, and are more at ease with abdicating from a strong post-figurative position. This is an expression of painful learning in the open digital landscape.
The recruitment of parents for the study in the Nordic countries has been possible through inviting parents with children in the relevant age (12-19) in the neighbourhood and among colleagues and friends and expanded the network through their kind assistance in their networks. In South Korea, we have relied on assistance from universities our institution has agreements with for research cooperation. These interviews have been done with interpreters. Most interviews have been conducted with both researchers present. Half of the interviews have been with parent couples. Interviews are transcribed and investigated using NVIVO 11. Interviewing in cross-cultural contexts is challenging and requires extra sensitivity towards nuances and differences in interpretations.
Parents find it difficult to establish a standard order of how to handle children's gaming and internet use. The children negotiate both with loud and subtle strategies for earning time for consumption of games or other activities. Parents seek for balances and avoiding tipping points in the family ecology - of handling emotions, reasons, arguments and responses. They acknowledge the pressure from media, school authorities and experts to refrain from regulating the children's media consumption, and are foreseeing a future where their children will use media competently in much larger context. On the other hand, they dislike this future and endorses post-figurative practices. They find consolation in the fact that the children keep up with school and deliverable acceptable results. Further, if they keep up a "social life" in addition to the mediated social life, participating in sports, exercises, theatre groups or playing instruments. The differences between South Korea and the Nordic countries reveal that the role of the experts and authorities are more outspoken in South Korea. The negotiating patterns are also different, but with important commonalities. The process of growing up and gradual dissociation from the family is understood and performed differently.
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