Barriers to access: motivation

A brother and sister with arms around each other. “Our parents grew up without the Internet. So they think you don’t need it.”

Motivation is a foundation of digital inclusion. Without a reason to get online, it’s easy to understand how any barrier could become insurmountable. So we began all our conversations by asking people what they think people use the Internet for, and what they would use the Internet for, assuming they had access to it. An overview of the responses to that question is presented in the section on Internet use, above. In this section we’ll explore some of the ways in which a lack of motivation acts as a barrier to digital inclusion.

Lack of general hope and motivation

One of the themes to emerge in discussions was the impact on a person’s motivation generally of having little in the way of hope or aspiration for their lives. People told us low motivation and self esteem undermined motivation to learn new skills, including digital skills.

Man with arm tattoos has arms crossed. “People with low motivation and self esteem and low vision about a future don’t have dreams. They can’t imagine something for themselves.”

“People with low motivation and self esteem and low vision about a future they might have. There is a whole section of our population. … I’d almost call it hopelessness, but that would imply they had hope. And they didn’t have it. I don’t think they ever did have hope. … They don’t have dreams, they can’t imagine something [for themselves].” – Community education advisor, Westport

In a similar vein, a youth worker in Kawerau pointed out that some young people in his community are exposed to a wide range of harmful behaviours, and that this made accessing the Internet - or staying safe online - a low priority for them and their parents.

“The worst case end of the spectrum for our kids is that they are exposed to everything in terms of social behaviour, or alcohol or drugs. They’re exposed to domestic violence, so the least of the parent’s worries is Internet safety.” – Kawerau Wananga

Overall, however, the people we talked to were motivated to access the Internet. The biggest challenges to their motivation came from other people who had influence over their access, or from persistent financial or physical barriers to access which wore down their motivation.

But in all of the communities we heard from people who work with young people and their families who are facing multiple social and economic challenges, we were told that those broader challenges tended to erode and undermine motivation in many areas, including motivation to get online.

Parental motivation to access

One participant proposed that a lack of motivation in children could be influenced by the examples they saw in their parents use of the Internet particularly, whether their parents used the Internet in their employment.

“I guess what I mean is that you’ve got parents that are office workers working in the public sector, or academics, or private sector or whatever, there’s that early role modeling and you see it’s at least useful for coordinating your work activities. But if you don’t have that role modeling at home it’s hard to see that world.” – Youth worker, Naenae

On this topic, quite a few participants raised a lack of motivation on the part of their parents or guardians, often grandparents, as a barrier to themselves accessing the Internet.

“My parents, they grew up without the Internet, so it’s a thing they think you don’t really need it. It just wasn’t a thing in their generation.” – Mangere, high school student

“Parents don’t necessarily value what we do here because technology itself isn’t really valued other than for leisure.” – Naenae, youth worker

Alongside their guardians’ lack of motivation to provide or facilitate access to the Internet, some young people described their caregivers as lacking understanding about the risks of the Internet.

“I was raised by my grandparents...they didn’t understand what the Internet was, or they weren’t aware of the risks so we probably saw a bit too much growing up. It wasn’t recently until the last year that they were all like ‘the Internet’s a crazy place.” –  Kawerau Wananga

While some young people described a lack of motivation in their parents as a generational issue, others framed it more as a cultural difference.

“I’m third generation NZ-Samoan and my grandparents migrated here. For them, due to religious beliefs as well as some cultural beliefs and upbringing, there was a huge barrier, a massive barrier. So there’s a bit of cultural barrier as well. New Zealand is very westernised, and my cousins back home are still climbing trees, fishing for their kai. So yeah, I can understand that.” – Kawerau, Wananga

However, several participants said that their parents’ interest in and understanding of the important of the Internet had changed over time.

“They’re quite old my parents, close to 60, and at first, yeah they were kind of skeptical about the Internet until they took the time out of their lives to try and understand how the Internet works and all the safety and stuff around it.” – Kawerau, Wananga

When asked what motivated her parents to learn about the Internet, this young woman from Kawerau said she thought it was them seeing on TV how technology was evolving.

“And even seeing their kids and grandkids on there. Their faces stuck in their phones.” – Kawerau Wananga

Another participant said that if her parents, and others in her community, understood the role that the Internet played in education they might be more motivated to ensure their children had access.

“Even the understanding that there is educational value in it and that yeah, I’m doing my homework because that is what a lot of [Pacific] families prioritise but that doesn’t look like what it used to look like.” – Youth mentor, Mangere