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Lack Of Trust In “Dehumanising” Online World Leaves Disadvantaged Young Further Behind


New LSE research commissioned by The Prince’s Trust, in conjunction with Samsung, reveals the disadvantages young people face offline are preventing them from making the most of the online world.

Slipping through the Net, produced by Dr Ellen Helsper, Associate Professor in Media and Communications at LSE, reveals a clear distrust by Britain’s most disadvantaged young people of online interactions, which is a major obstacle to using the digital world to improve their situation.

The report found that while 53% of the UK’s disadvantaged young people believe information found on the internet is “generally reliable”, 50% say that no-one or almost no-one could be trusted online.

While these young people were positive towards the potential benefits of ICTs (Information Communication Technology), they often ran into frustrations, from what they perceived as dehumanising experiences.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Helsper, said: “Whilst some of the young people we spoke to in the focus groups were resigned to the fact that this is an inevitable consequence of online interactions, many reported taking drastic action such as disconnecting altogether.”

The report also found disadvantaged young people are using ICTs more to engage in employment-related activities, yet they were less likely than their peers to succeed, even partially, through this medium (46% compared to 65% of their employed peers). Similarly, over half of these young people did not obtain a formal qualification through ICTs that they could not have obtained otherwise.

NEET young people (a young person who is Not in Education, Employment, or Training) expressed a preference to apply for jobs in person, rather than digitally, in particular because of the lack of follow up messages received from employers online. Many of these young people, who have a history with rejection, took this as a further setback.

One young person who took part in a focus group said: “I’m only going to find the local jobs and then I’ll go into the place and hand in my CV and stop there.”

Disadvantaged young people are also being held back in the digital world by their lack of softer social skills. Around 40% of them struggled with “netiquette”, that is decisions about their own behaviour or dealing with the negative behaviour of others online. The report shows that this issue also affects young people who are in education, employment or training.

Dr Helsper added: “Most of the time, the young people we interviewed in the focus group did not realise that these are skills which could be learnt and used to advance in life. Only more technical skills such as those taught in school, were seen as requiring training.”

Only 17% of NEETs – arguably those who need it the most – had asked for help with using ICTs in the last three months. When they did ask, these young people relied on a narrower and less expert network of support often unable to teach them sustainable skills, instead of going to professionals, such as help desks or teachers.

Martina Milburn CBE, chief executive at The Prince’s Trust said: “We need to dispel the myth that all millennials know how to make the most of the digital world. Many disadvantaged young people are not achieving positive outcomes online, in particular when it comes to education or employment. The findings show that a lot of young people struggle with social interactions online. We should ensure that these softer social skills, including safeguarding, are included in training programmes.”

As part of its recommendations, the report also calls on employers to develop new digital services to avoid frustrating experiences, such as a lack of communication with regards to online job applications.


The full report is available on the DiSTO project website DiSTO: From digital skills to tangible outcomes

For more information about this specific study visit: ‘Socio-digital Skills of Disadvantaged Young People’ (aka DiSTO NEETs)

Source: London School of Economics

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