Understanding digital inequality: the interplay between parental socialisation and children's development

Ingrid Paus-Hasebrink, Cristina Ponte, Andrea Dürager, Jo Renate Bauwens

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

6 Citations (Scopus)


All across Europe, both the restructuring of the economy and the immigration of new citizens from disadvantaged countries show that relations of inequality are dynamic, but still persistent. Given the diversity of European countries, in social, cultural and economic terms, the gap between the rich and the poor arises in various forms and degrees. At the same time social inequalities within countries are still a key concern of social politics. In particular political economists point out that dynamics of inclusion and exclusion continue to affect the communicative rights and competencies of considerable groups of citizens (Murdock & Golding, 2004). Hence the move towards a society which is increasingly mediated, experienced and encountered through the internet, keeps raising the question if and how vulnerable families are getting the best out of the social, informational, educational and cultural opportunities of online technologies (Livingstone, 2009).
As the younger children are, the more they need parental education in using the internet adequately. Further, we assume that a lower educational status affects parental mediation, and consequently provides the resources children can draw upon to build competencies for using the internet and coping with online risks. When children grow up, they show a more unrestricted use of the internet, as their parents increasingly refrain from intervening in their personal times and spaces (see e.g. Wang et al., 2005; Livingstone and Helsper, 2008; Bauwens et al., 2009). However, the degrees of liberty children enjoy and how they deal with it often is the product of a particular family culture. Drawing on sociological and psychological theoretical perspectives, this chapter elaborates on two research questions. How does parents' formal education influence children's internet use? And how does children's development by age interact with their family background in terms of an autonomous and competent use of the internet? In particular the interrelation between these two processes, i.e. parental socialisation and development by age, helps us understand the interplay of children's activities in dealing with the internet and their parents' handling on that.
Building on other empirical studies, we firstly discuss the persistent importance of social inequality for ICT use in the industrialized countries. Secondly, we elaborate on a theoretical framework by discussing both children's and parents' individual agency and how these are interlinked with respect to their societal status. Focus is hereby on parental formal education as one of the key indicators of SES. Finally, based on a multilevel analysis of the EU Kids Online dataset, we test out the theoretical ideas and hypotheses and ask how parental socialisation shapes young people's online competences, and how children's development by age interacts with structural processes and dynamics of socialisation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChildren, risk and safety on the internet
Subtitle of host publicationResearch and policy challenges in comparative perspective
EditorsS. Livingstone, L. Haddon, A. Görzig
PublisherThe policy Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)978-1-84742-882-0
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • young people
  • internet
  • digital gap
  • social inquality
  • children
  • Europe
  • cross-national analysis


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