Making content that captivates young people in a converged media world 5
Panel discussions 6
What are young people’s expectations about content in a converging media environment? 6
What are young people’s expectations of professionally produced media content? 7
How important is social media in generating interest in new content? 7
How do young people determine if online content is safe? 7
What are the main issues for young people who watch or produce user generated content? 7
Q&A—promoting the interests of young citizens 8
How do poorer young citizens fare? 8
How do youth feel about the way they are portrayed in the media and the use of personal information in the online world? 8
Is peer criticism in response to posting an image online a major part of being young and using social media? 8
Are schools teaching kids about online dangers? 9
Do kids restrict access to their Facebook sites? 9
In the first of its Citizen conversations series, the ACMA’s Young citizens in a changing media world forum was held on 5 December 2011 to talk about some of the issues that affect young people in this changing digital media world.
The forum featured contributions from young citizens, industry stakeholders and not-for-profit consumer protection groups. It explored topics relevant to young citizens online, such as education and protection, television programming for young citizens, insights into young people’s views on convergence from recent research, as well as social media and online search.
Young citizens and media
Participants were treated to an irreverent and engaging opening presentation by Dan Ilic, a comedian, writer, performer and filmmaker. Dan is also a reporter/presenter on the ABC’s Hungry Beast. Dan’s presentation included a number of stimulating propositions, for example:
At least for younger generations, TV is dead, killed by the internet.
Television no longer caters for youth.
The internet is now the principal driver of content production.
Network television becomes networked television.
There is a profound generation divide over internet use between young people and older people.
The internet has moved us from a read-only to read-write culture.
Martin Cocker, Executive Director of NetSafe in New Zealand, spoke about digital citizen safety and participation, and mused that we can have too much fear about what goes on online, citing a comment from a young person that:
My parents let me use a shotgun, but they won’t let me use Facebook. In his insightful presentation, Martin canvassed a range of vexing online issues and concerns, considered the role of government in addressing these issues, and emphasised that preparing young people for a digital future needs to be the focus of all cybersafety programs.
Martin suggested the appropriate role for government in this realm is to promote digital citizenship: inform citizens to make appropriate choices for themselves and, in particular, to empower young people so that they can control their own environment and have a positive experience of digital society.
Digital citizens need resources and governments are already providing these:
New Zealand’s NetSafe has myLGP (learn-guide-protect), with a collection of resources to teach effective digital citizenship.
The ACMA’s Cybersafety site, Cybersmart, helps young people and families use the internet safely.
Governments are increasingly providing these resources in an engaging, subtle, non-linear and interactive way. For example:
The ACMA’s Tagged video for teens and Cybersmart Detectives for younger people.
NetSafe’s The scam machine.
Protecting young citizens
Jeremy Fenton, Manager of the ACMA’s Content Classification Section and Neil Gaughan, Assistant Commissioner, Australian Federal Police and Chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce presented this session on protecting young citizens.
Jeremy explained the ACMA’s role in regulating the minority of online material that is offensive, harmful or illegal. The ACMA’s strong partnerships with INHOPE (the International Association of Internet Hotlines) and Australian law enforcement agencies result in rapid removal of illegal online content like child abuse material, once the content comes to our notice.
Neil explained the focus of law enforcement agencies in assisting young people to keep safe online, removing child exploitation material from the internet and disrupting criminal behaviour on the internet. Industry and international partnerships (Council of Europe and Interpol, for example) are critical to effectively combating online child sexual abuse.
Making content that captivates young people in a converged media world
Jenny Buckland, an expert in children’s television and CEO of the Australian Children’s Television Foundation, questioned the often quoted view that user generated content will usurp professionally produced content in the future.
Jenny cited recent research from the ACMA and Screen Australia that television remains the most important media activity for most Australians, television viewing has only declined by around 10 minutes a day (a decline that is reversing), children are embracing new platforms without abandoning television, only six per cent had created and uploaded video content to the internet, and audiences remain engaged with professionally made content.
Young Australians tell the Foundation that they like humour (and the funnier the better), suspense, a surprise ending (not one chosen by them!), characters they can relate to, seeing kids doing well, multicultural casting, and a good story—kids like to be captivated by storytelling.
Quality content is about captivating storylines that continue to speak to and engage young people. The online experience is an adjunct to, but not a replacement for, professionally produced content—fan communities develop on social networking sites and broadcaster websites to talk about televisions shows, including their quality and the performance of broadcasters.
Jenny concluded that user-generated content is not displacing professionally produced content, television broadcasters are not on their last legs, production standards are getting higher, Australian television shows for children are up there with the best in the world, and kids now have dedicated destinations like ABC3, Ten, Foxtel and GO!
Read more about Jenny’s presentation at the Inside Film website.
What are young people’s expectations about content in a converging media environment?
Matthew Dobson, a Senior Research Analyst with the ACMA chaired the panel with youth representatives (Ella, Hayley and Julia) and representatives from broadcasters (Cherrie Bottger of Network Ten) and NetSafe (Martin Cocker).
Matthew set the scene for the panel discussion by outlining some of the findings of the ACMA’s Digital Australians research. The main object of the research was to consider whether attitudes and expectations about media content differed depending on media content, delivery channel or other factors.
The research findings include:
While media use of Australians is changing, the use of traditional media remains strong.
Younger Australians use online media more, but in addition to, rather than as a substitute for television.
Australians have some concerns about keeping up with change and new technologies and the associated risks, for example, keeping personal information safe.
Delivery platform is not important but we draw a distinction between professional content produced for wide audiences and user generated content—we have few expectations of the latter apart from it being lawful.
There is a general expectation that online news would meet the same standards of accuracy, fairness and transparency as broadcast television, radio and newspapers.
Brand recognition is important as people’s expectations were associated with the brand rather than the delivery channel. For example, branded online news is expected to meet the same standards as its offline counterparts.
Taste and decency standards are expected of all content and there are some concerns about nudity and sexual content.
Most people are comfortable managing their own access to online content, but it was different for children, especially if you were a parent.
Parents are largely seen as responsible for children’s access to online content and most parents consider consumer information (classification and ratings advice) is important to their decision on what their children can view. ACMA research shows that between 63 and 79 per cent of surveyed parents indicated that consumer information was very or quite important when deciding which content their children should view.
Young Australians are avid users of social networking sites, with Facebook the dominant platform, and see them as enabling communication and identity creation.
Young Australians deal with material in different ways:
8–11-year-olds know not to look at certain content and would immediately close the window.
12–14-year-olds are more likely to engage with inappropriate content. The latest ACMA qualitative research suggests that this may be the most vulnerable age group as their internet usage is expanding while at the same time parental supervision is being relaxed.
Further information on the research is available on the ACMA’s engage website.
The following observations can be made about viewpoints expressed in response to questions asked during the panel discussion.
What are young people’s expectations of professionally produced media content?
Broadcaster perspective: 3–12-year-olds expect professional content and high production quality, attention grabbing (which has to happen in the first one to three minutes), good storytelling, and a multiplatform interactive experience (an online presence is essential).
Youth perspective: Informative media should be held to a very high standard, including ethics, but much less concerned about content in entertainment media (for example, social media and non-educational television).
Commentator perspective: The key is authenticity—gimmicks like being able to choose endings are using technology for the sake of technology rather than giving people what they actually want.
How important is social media in generating interest in new content?
Broadcaster perspective: Social media opens up fan-to-fan communication. Recent research from Screen Australia explores the relationship with young audiences in a multi-screen world; although social media usage remains a small component when compared with the television audience.
Youth perspective: Social media is an important source of information for us but attempts to use social media to drum up interest in programs causes backlash as ‘social’ media needs to be driven by communities. The power of social media was positively exemplified in the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street movement. On a smaller and more local scale, schools use Facebook to generate interest and support in charity days.
Commentator perspective: Facebook must be a good thing otherwise it wouldn’t be used by so many people. However, social media is at its best when engaging audiences in a conversation, rather than pushing out a message.
How do young people determine if online content is safe?
Gen X perspective: We stick to high-end branded professionally produced content. Apart from YouTube, don’t look at much user-generated content, probably as we didn’t grow up with using the technology to regularly access and manipulate this type of content.
Youth perspective: We have an instinctive tendency to know when a site can be trusted and are adept at spotting dodgy looking sites, cross-checking against other sources or our own knowledge (often advice from friends), and identifying when a particular site makes us feel threatened or vulnerable. The 12–14 years demographic is the most vulnerable but they need the space to make mistakes and explore the internet realm for themselves.
What are the main issues for young people who watch or produce user generated content?
Broadcaster perspective: Illegally downloading content is a huge issue and young people don’t seem to appreciate intellectual property and copyright issues.
Youth perspective: We are desensitised to illegal downloads and baulk at the expense of purchasing content. We are more concerned about being judged on the basis of content we post online—older people don’t have videos of their earlier stupidity posted on YouTube—and with the teasing and bullying that can follow.
Commentator perspective: Copyright exists so that people can make a living out of their intellectual property.
Q&A—promoting the interests of young citizens
The panel from the previous session was joined by representatives from Google (Ishtar Vij, Policy Counsel) and the Australian Children’s Television Foundation (Jenny Buckland, CEO) for a Q&A session facilitated by the ACMA’s Deputy Chair, Richard Bean.
Ishtar outlined Google’s approach to promoting the interests of young citizens—education, empowerment and cooperation, to encourage young people to be smart with their use of technology.
Google sees protecting young people online as a responsibility shared between individuals, industry, government and the community. Tools like Google’s safe search allow users to manage their own online experience.
How do poorer young citizens fare?
Researcher perspective: ACMA research attempts to explore this issue by studying behavioural trends by age. Also, we, target key age bands (5–7, 8–12 and 13–17 years) where we know that there are significant differences in the behaviour of young citizens based on factors such as access to technology, education and gender. We have attempted to understand the impact of social disadvantage on young citizens’ adoption of new technology by reviewing the existing research literature in relevant fields (for example, digital media literacy).
Commentator perspective: Access to technology is based on socio-economic indicators but research doesn’t support variances in negative experiences or the ability to manage negative experiences along socio-economic lines.
Youth perspective: The hole in the wall project in Kolkata—where illiterate street children were immediately able to operate computers left in public spaces—suggests poorer youth can fare well as long as they have access to technology.
How do youth feel about the way they are portrayed in the media and the use of personal information in the online world?
Youth perspective: We need to know what exactly we’re signing up for and our best interests need to be paramount; it’s common for current affairs programs to portray youth in a negative light and attribute the bad behaviour of a minority to all youths.
Commentator perspective: Teenagers are an easy target as they don’t vote. The NSW Children’s Guardian regulates children’s employment in entertainment and Commercial Radio Australia (CRA) has developed a code to do more to protect children without being paternalistic.
Regulator perspective: The CRA code was developed in response to the ACMA’s broader investigation into the adequacy of protections for participants in live hosted entertainment shows, which concluded that better protection is needed. The CRA code isn’t specifically directed at putting children’s best interests first: it prohibits broadcasting programs which treat participants in a highly demeaning or highly exploitative manner.
Is peer criticism in response to posting an image online a major part of being young and using social media?
Youth perspective: Some bullying is unavoidable but 11–15-year-olds are most likely to do the most stupid things on the internet and this age group needs more protection as parental influence wanes. An education initiative with a catchy tag phrase (like the stranger danger initiative) urging kids to think before posting would help. Maybe something along the lines of ‘Would you want your Mum to see it?’.
Are schools teaching kids about online dangers?
Youth perspective: Cyberbullying and sexting are covered in school, along with what you should, and shouldn’t, post on the internet but on a sporadic, rather than regular basis, with variations between states and the public/private systems. Broadcaster perspective: Children’s television plays an important role in presenting youth in a positive light, countering the negative portrayal in news and current affairs, and conveying cybersafety messages as part of compelling storylines.
Do kids restrict access to their Facebook sites?
Youth perspective: It varies—some young people use private settings or a mixture of private and custom settings. The onus is on users to customise their settings. Industry perspective: Kids should use the settings. YouTube has tools to control how public or private a video is. It’s important to promote to young people awareness of settings and the ability to remove content that makes them uncomfortable.