Tuesday P3: ‘It’s our generation too, we adapt’*: Young people and digital media

I think if they actually got - no offence to school teachers – but if they actually got some people that do spend a considerable amount of time on the internet and know how to navigate around it like young people do, it would be a lot easier to teach younger audiences

(Mark, then 15, student.)

As teachers we are somewhat ambivalent about young people and their use of digital media. On the one hand we see them as ‘digital natives’ – more attuned, adept and accomplished in their use of such than we are. On the other, we spend a good deal of time in what Luci Pangrazio refers to as a ‘protectionist discourse’ – often in response to media panics – attempting to regulate how they use such media, and to protect them from the likes of cyberbullying, fake news and abuse of privacy.

It may well be that young people feel a similar ambivalence. They certainly see themselves as resourceful, creative and adventurous in their use of digital media. Some, however, see the sheer proliferation of platforms and apps leading us to dystopian futures, where technology is ‘a dark…enveloping cloud that is sort of sweeping over humanity’. (Chantelle, then 16, student.)

So, what do we really know about what young people actually do with digital media? As the subtitle of Luci’s text, Young People’ Literacies in the Digital Age suggests the ‘story flows in more than one direction’. In engaging with 13 young people over the course of a year she explored how they use digital media to create identities and communities, engage in established cyber communities, how they learnt and created and ‘designed’ knowledge, and to what extent they thought critically about what they were doing and discovering. In so doing she revealed a complex matrix of continuities, conflicts and contradictions.

The question we might pose for ourselves as educators is: how do we utilise this ‘knowledge’ to meet Mark’s implicit challenge to better ‘teach younger audiences’.

*(Trent, then 16, a student participant in Luci Pangrazio’s research project.)


Terry Hayes BW

Terry Hayes is a retired teacher and the current Vice President of VATE. He is a Life member and former President of both AATE and VATE. 


Bjorn Nansen

Bjorn Nansen is a senior lecturer in Media and Communications at the University of Melbourne. His research focuses on emerging and marginal forms of digital media use in everyday life, using a mix of ethnographic, participatory and digital methods. His current research projects explore changing home media infrastructures and environments, young children’s mobile media and digital play practices, the digitisation of death and memorialising, and the mediation of sleep practices. He is a co-author of Death and Digital Media (Routledge, 2018).

Luci Pangrazio

Luci Pangrazio is a former secondary teacher who has also worked at Monash University.  She is currently a Research Fellow at the Centre for Educational Impact (REDI) in the Faculty of Arts and Education, Deakin University. Her research focuses on critical digital literacies and the changing nature of digital texts. She is currently researching young people’s practices and understanding of personal data. In 2018 she worked on a project funded by the Department of Premier and Cabinet to design a curriculum based around social media and critical thinking in which one area of focus was on ‘fake news’ and how it spreads on social media platforms.  Her book Young People’s Literacies in the Digital Age: Continuities, Conflicts and Contradictions was published in early 2019 by Routledge. Some of the students in Luci’s research will join her at this panel.