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Reflections on the meaning of ‘digital’ in research on adolescents’ digital lives

Livingstone, Sonia ORCID: 0000-0002-3248-9862 (2024) Reflections on the meaning of ‘digital’ in research on adolescents’ digital lives. Journal of Adolescence. ISSN 0140-1971

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Identification Number: 10.1002/jad.12322


More than before, and not only in wealthy countries, adolescents are exploring and expressing their identity and autonomy through risky as well as creative and constructive opportunities. In commenting on this special issue of the Journal of Adolescence on adolescents’ digital lives, I argue that future research should encompass greater technological specificity so as to illuminate the dynamic between digital affordances and user activities as part of a broader ecological analysis of adolescents’ ‘digital lives.’ This can help differentiate the currently confusing mix of findings linked to diverse digital services, activities and contexts and, thereby, more precisely inform public policies. These policies, I further argue, should address not only initiatives that rely on parents, teachers or clinicians but also those that make a sustainable structural change through legislation and regulation, including by mandating improvements to technological design by companies. Last, to understand what difference the ‘digital’ makes, researchers could conceptualise ‘the digital’ in three ways - the usage of devices, apps and other tools; engagement within digital spaces or environments for action and interaction; and the fundamental digital infrastructures that are reshaping information, education, work, commerce, entertainment, communication and society at large.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2024 The Author
Divisions: Media and Communications
Subjects: H Social Sciences
H Social Sciences > HE Transportation and Communications
Date Deposited: 18 Mar 2024 11:06
Last Modified: 26 May 2024 21:30

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