I. STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
How do Filipino children integrate the Internet and mobile phone into their everyday life and peer and family relationships? This study is a response to a suggestion by Sonia Livingstone (2003) to investigate further children’s relationships in the new media environment. It also seeks to address the lack of empirical studies on Filipino children’s engagements with and in the new media, specifically the Internet and mobile phone. Why children? As children become more exposed to new media through school and Home, it is important to investigate how they use and appropriate these technologies in their everyday life. Do these technologies allow for continuity or change in children’s experience of leisure, school, peer and family relationships?
No stated hypothesis in the study.
III. RESEARCH METHOD
III.a Research Design
Since the objective is to identify, describe and explain children’s activities in the new media environment and how they use these technologies, a qualitative design was employed for the study. This approach allows us to probe further into the contextual realm of children’s engagements with and in the new media.
Data were gathered through a depth interview guide, which allowed respondents to narrate and explain their uses of the Internet and mobile phone as well as their relationships online. The following are the concepts investigated and the corresponding questions:
a. Access and Usage of the Mobile Phone/Internet
1. How did you come to own one? Why?
2. How long have you been using a mobile phone?
3. How often do you use the phone?
4. Where do you have Internet access? Why?
5. How often do you use the Internet? Why?
b. Uses and Contexts of the Mobile Phone
1. What do you do with your cell phone? Why?
2. What types of messages do you send? Why?
Acknowledging the lack of empirical studies on children and new media, this study asked how a sample of Filipino children integrated new media into their everyday lives and in their relationships with peers and family members. It sought to understand the uses of the Internet and mobile phone in the context of home (family life), school, and leisure activities of children. A contextual approach to the use of new media looks at how these technologies are incorporated into everyday routines and acknowledges how values and social practices influence new media uses. By comparing Internet and mobile phone uses, this preliminary study sought to ascertain the meanings of these two different but related media among Filipino children. Data suggested that the contexts of family, school, and leisure defined the uses of the new media. The Internet was used mainly for information seeking related to school and interests, relational maintenance (friends and relatives) and leisure.
On the other hand, the mobile phone was used for coordinating day-to-day practicalities, relational maintenance among family members and peers, and was deployed by parents as a means to monitor their children’s whereabouts and activities. In turn participants construed the medium as an extension of parental presence. The study also probed into family and peer relationships of participants in the new media environment. The goal was to provide evidence that would support or contradict opinion regarding the potential of the medium as an environment where social relations are created or maintained. Findings suggested that the media were used primarily to maintain the participants’ existing social networks rather than creating new ones. Rarely was the medium used to create new relations. It is important to note that existing relational dynamics in the family largely influence interactions on the mobile phone. Although the phone provided accessibility, it was not a guarantee in improving relations between parents and children, and among siblings.
The obvious change is the accessibility and convenience that these new media provide to facilitate information search and communication. The impact can be seen in the way children do research and regard reading books. As the study unveiled, participants tended to spend less time in the library and get their material instead online, where information is easily copied. The ways school children do research on the Internet could be investigated in future studies. This finding also suggests a need to emphasize critical media literacy among young people that would train them to be critical consumers and users of online information.
Almost all of the Filipinos of today are well-oriented when it comes to latest gadgets and its uses, especially the adolescents who used this in almost all of the time. However, there is a big problem when it comes to the “proper” use of technology. Some Filipinos tend to be abusing the true essence of technology. Some used it for cyber bullying and any sort of crime related to this. Accessibility does not necessarily alter existing social and cultural practices; for example, participants tended to communicate more within their network of relations. Indeed for this sample of children, Filipino family and peer relational dynamics still find their way in the new media environment.
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