Digital socialization: Young people's changing value orientations towards internet use between adolescence and early adulthood

Jonathan Frederick Smith, Belinda Hewitt, Zlatko Skrbis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


This study investigates emerging differences among young people in their judgements about the benefits and risks of internet use. To ascertain how and why diverse values and practices emerge, and their implications for young people s careers and relationships, we examined influences on youth internet use over a five-year period between adolescence and early adulthood. Qualitative interviews were conducted with a subset of young Australians (n = 20) who participated in the longitudinal study Social Futures and Life Pathways ( Our Lives ), in the year after high school (aged 17-18 years). Participants were strategically selected using survey data on their academic and social internet-use patterns five years earlier (aged 12-13 years), enabling us to explore the origins, attributes, and outcomes of their distinct use pathways. We found that interviewees digital socialization involved different ways of reconciling technological developments with their ideas about the pathway to maturity and status recognition. Young people who grew up with limited internet access learned to view task-oriented use, such as schoolwork, as the only worthwhile use of this access. Academically driven students instead valued such use as a more productive and refined choice when compared to other social and recreational practices. Those with better, less regulated access were less dismissive of these non-educational uses, and were more confident and pragmatic about online opportunities and risks as they approached early adulthood. Our findings highlight the need to support young people in developing the capacity to manage, rather than avoid the risks of the internet.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1022 - 1038
Number of pages17
JournalInformation, Communication and Society
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • digital inequality
  • ICTs
  • online risks
  • socialization
  • young people

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