Digital Participation Among Children in Rural Areas
This chapter problematizes the experience of digital participation and growing up in rural areas. The chapter modifies the relatively uniform picture of children as digital natives. It describes how children in different ways use, and refrain from using, digital tools and how these practices relate to inclusion and exclusion in peer relations. The study takes an ethnographic approach by employing observations, interviews and visual methods. Data collection was carried out over 2 years in a school (preschool to grade 6) in a rural area in Sweden. The participants were qualified educators other staff, and their students aged 1–12 and parents. In this chapter we use a sub-corpus of data consisting of 31 interviews with children (aged 7–12) and 2 with parents. The study shows that few of the children can be described as digital natives, while the majority relegated digital tools and the Internet to the periphery across settings. There were important differences between children with high and low social activity. Children with low social activity and few friends outside the family seldom used digital tools or rarely used them for interaction, although they developed alternative means of communication. This finding suggests implications for these children’s chances to develop digital inclusion, learning opportunities and – by extension – their opportunities to be involved in community development. The rural community in which they lived can be described as a subculture in which children can feel safe and be protected from, as the adults expressed it, the digitalized, unsafe world.
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