"It makes them streetwise": What parents and children tell themselves and each other about young people's activities online

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


University of Canberra


Faculty of Education and Arts


School of Communication and Arts / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts, Technology, Education and Communications




Australian Research Council

Grant Number

ARC Number : DP110100864


Green, L. R., Holloway, D. J., & Haddon, L. (2013). It makes them streetwise. What parents and children tell themselves and each other about young people's activities online. In Proceedings of the Emerging Issues in Communication Research and Policy Conference, 2013 (pp. 60-69). Canberra, Australia. University of Canberra. Available here


Parents and children both construct narratives around what young people do online and why, and how they respond to these circumstances. As one mother says: You can’t hide them from things like Facebook, and it makes them streetwise. They have friends that are not allowed to use it, but their mums pick them up from school and drop them off and they are not learning any life skills. This project investigates parents’ and children’s understandings of young people’s online activities in terms of the costs, benefits, advantages and concerns. The aim of the project is to interrogate domestic negotiations around online activities for high school-aged children, including the negotiations within the household and the impact of peer activity both upon those negotiations and upon the young person’s internet use. Parents have traditionally constructed digital technology as an educational resource and the skills involved in mastering its potential as indicative of career-oriented capabilities. Children have constructed the same technologies as games machines and tools for engineering sociability. But there is some evidence that each appreciates the perspective of the other and works to accommodate it while trying to encourage the adoption of an and-also model, rather than one that prefers either-or. This paper draws upon early findings from 2013 data and uses the voices of participants to illustrate the nuances of the negotiations around meaning and importance attributed both to the technology and to its uses.