The Internet and Youth Culture
Gustavo S. Mesch
ince the internet and other media have been adopted and integrated into the daily lives of an increasing number of young adolescents in Western countries, scholars and commentators are debating the impact of these new media on the activities, social relationships, and worldviews of the younger generations. Controversies about whether technology shapes values, attitudes, and patterns of social behavior are not new. In the recent past, the rapid expansion of television stimulated similar discussions of its cultural and social effects. In this essay, I will briefly describe the sources of the debate and its specific arguments regarding the role of the internet in youth life. Then, I will describe some important trends in youth activities, attitudes, and behaviors. The literature on the internet and youth culture presents different views regarding the role of technology in society. Two major perspectives are technological determinism and the social construction of technologies.
The technological deterministic view presents the internet as an innovative force that has profound influence on children and youth; technology generates new patterns of expression, communication, and motivation. In this view, various terms have been used to describe this generation of youth, including “Net-generation,” the “millennium genera -
tion,” and “digital natives.”
These labels attempt to identify a large group of young ado
lescents who grew up during the expansion of the internet and from early childhood have 1
Marc Prensky, “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 1,” On the Horizon
9.5 (October 2001): 1–6;
Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation
(New York: McGraw Hill, 1998).
Gustavo S. Mesch is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Haifa, Israel. His research is directed to understanding the effects of information and communication...