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<When teenagers spend more time in bedroom than socialy active University of Glasgow academic has found>
August 2, 2020 • jainendra joshi • JOBS AND CARRER

 

 

Technology and online networks play a vital role to help marginalised or “hidden youth” feel connected in

the digital age, a University of Glasgow academic has found.

Dr Mark Wong, a lecturer in Social and Public Policy, has been looking at the so-called “hidden youth”

phenomenon, where teenagers hid away in the bedrooms for months or years and communicate only

online.

However, in a new paper published in New Media and Society, Dr Wong presents new evidence and

insights to show these young people are not social withdrawn but in fact have built new communities of

likeminded people and friends.

Dr Wong conducted the first study of its kind looking at this phenomenon in a Scottish/UK context while

also comparing it to what was happening in Hong Kong. Dr Wong interviewed 32 children in Scotland and

Hong Kong who have shut themselves in their bedrooms for between three months to four years.

In his paper entitled “Hidden Youth?: A New Perspective on the Sociality of Young People "Withdrawn" in

the Bedroom in A Digital Age” Dr Wong shows that “hidden youth’s sociality was found to be more

nuanced and interconnected than previously assumed”.

Dr Wong, who has been exploring how “hidden” young people experience connectedness, said: “New

research is increasingly challenging one of the most common and growing concerns around the world

that young people are isolating themselves from people and society when they engage in technologies,

often inside the bedroom.

“But there is evidence showing that online connections and interactions may not only be positive but also

crucial to young people’s sense of connectedness and wellbeing, particularly to those who are most

socially and economically marginalised and precarious, just as we’ve witnessed recently amongst some

of the most disadvantaged or physically isolated groups during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Dr Wong’s paper says that the current discussions of “hidden youth” are strongly driven by a presumption

that the young people are living solitary lives in the bedroom.

 The findings revealed that each one 32 participants had some sorts of interactions with people through

digital media. While the participants had very limited offline, face-to-face interactions outside, they

showed contrastingly high levels of interaction with people such as friends, peer groups, and even family

members online.

“All but two participants felt more socially connected through digital environments despite being shut in

the bedroom. Many participants talked about using various online platforms that allowed them to interact

with large, diverse networks of people and communities. Some young people talked about chatting with

dozens and hundreds of people online every day, and thereby depict a rather different picture of “hidden”

young people’s sociality.”

 

Most of those who took part in the interviews expressed concerns that the lack of job opportunities and

the struggle to find work made them feel marginalised and disconnected. That in turn led “hidden youth”

to find solace and connection through online communities in their bedroom.

 

“This prompts us to reflect on the complexities of social connectedness in the digital age. In future

studies, more attention is needed to address the multiplicity of young people’s sociality in offline and

online environments and the inter-relationship between the two. Questions about how best to describe

and understand a young person’s sociality, even as more seemingly shut themselves inside the bedroom,

will provide useful avenues for discussions in the future.

 Emerging technological transformations, especially in the context of digital communications and media,

have significant implications on how the social is experienced and social connections are formed. The

nature of human connections is shifting and increasingly facilitated by use of technologies and

mediatised platforms. Digital media has to be recognised as having a positive and crucial role in

mediating young people’s connections, especially for those who are marginalised and alienated in

society.”

“Also, observations that young people are physically secluded or spending extended time on

digital devices may not necessarily mean they are isolated from the social. The quality and

importance of online communities and interactions must not be overlooked, and emerging

experiences of connectivity and sociality intertwined with online and offline environments

have to be understood.”