P. Nikken

Windesheim University of Applied Science (NETHERLANDS)
Most research on teenagers and new technologies focus on media use in leisure time (e.g., Rideout et al. 2010, 2015) and often assume that media hamper learning outcomes (e.g. Gentile et al. 2004; Zimmerman & Christakis 2005). Relative little knowledge exists on how teenagers integrate electronic devices with schoolwork and which teenagers benefit most from media for school performance. The Dutch Mediawijzer.net network therefore organized an online questionnaire among a sample of 1.341 teenagers (12-18 years; 52% boys) from low, middle, and higher secondary education. The study established which electronic and print media are owned and used, and which purposes these media have for homework and learning at school. Using canonical discriminant analysis the three levels of secondary education were profiled on media ownership and media purposes for schoolwork.

Not surprisingly, all teenagers have smartphones, which are very important for private use. However, half of them (48%), among which more girls than boys, reported that smartphones are valuable for schoolwork too. The most important purpose of smartphones is making phone calls (done by 91% of the teenagers), followed by social entertainment (72%), including watching/sharing photos/videos, listening to music, gaming, and social media communication. Serious smartphone functionalities, like checking school information, the agenda, calculator, or making notes, are less often used (44%). Girls use significantly more smartphone functionalities for school than boys.

Another 43%, again more girls, also agreed that PC’s/laptops are important for school which tops private computer use (32% agreed). TV’s and tablets, and game consoles, were more often deemed important for students’ free time than for school (respectively 55%, 32% and 16% versus 9%, 19% and 0%). Books and newspapers are important for schoolwork and private use according to respectively 7% and 3%, and 7% and 1% of the students. Regarding homework, a minority of the students (29%) share information, like resumes, assignments, or notes made in class, with peers by means of their media devices, whereas one in five students actively cooperates online during homework. Again, girls are more engaged in cooperating and exchanging information with peers. Finally, girls also somewhat more actively use media (e.g., Google, YouTube, learning applications) for their schoolwork than boys do (53% vs. 47%).

Canonical discriminant analyses showed that lower education students are typified by a higher use of TV, also during homework. Moreover, they less often use print media, less often apply media for their schoolwork, and less often cooperate or exchange information online with peers when doing homework. Children from middle level of education relatively often are engaged in gaming, tablets, and print media. These students, however, make the least use of the serious functions of their smartphone. Higher education students, finally, less often play video games, more often use personal computers or laptops, are engaged mostly in online cooperation and information exchange with peers, and more often use media for knowledge improvement. In other words, teenagers in lower education in the Netherlands, and to a minor extent boys, seem to benefit the least from technology in education. For their teachers in secondary education and professionals in youth work or parenting support these results imply the need for improving their media-literacy.