Differences in motivations & use
Different people told us that they used some aspects of the Internet more often, and for different reasons.
Unsurprisingly, parents, young people with disabilities and young people on the Independent Youth Benefit were more likely to have used the Internet for official purposes than other young people. This included high stakes activities like being notified of appointment times at WINZ by email, accessing medical records through ManageMyHealth and young people needing to check in regularly with their social worker to confirm that they were still eligible for their income support. One woman had used the Internet to work out what she needed to do to get a divorce from her husband who was in prison for assaulting her and her children.
Parents were more likely to use the Internet to research health conditions and many also said that they relied on online videos and games to entertain their children.
“I like Google for diagnosis for illness, and sicknesses, and rashes, you know, for the kids?”
“Yeah, home remedies or just to try and figure out what might be wrong with the kids.” – Women’s refuge group, Auckland
Young people living in a small town talked about using the Internet to find communities of people who shared their ‘niche’ interests, whether this was poetry or Japanese anime.
A similar view was expressed by young people living in large urban areas. Although they might have access to a larger pool of peers, they still found that the Internet allowed them to connect with people who shared their interests.
“For some people it’s just more comfortable to connect online cos they can connect with people who are more like them.” – High school student mentor, Mangere
Youth in Kawerau also said the Internet allowed them to aspire to a level of success that might otherwise have seemed unrealistic for a kid from a small town in rural New Zealand.
“I suppose the mindset is that you can’t be like that because we’re from Kawerau. It’s like nah you can, that’s the whole point of social media, anyone can be a star or whatever.” – Kawerau Youth Council
Young people with disabilities said that accessing the Internet was often critical to their ability to connect and communicate.
“The Internet offers a multitude of positives to assist youth with disabilities to live healthy, happy lives. The ability to research a condition, link up with other individuals living with it even if they’re on the other side of the world, can be invaluable.” – Youth with disabilities, Wellington
“I guess knowing that you are not alone,” was a sentiment that recurred in the group of youth with disabilities. Having technology that enabled them to connect online was integral to youth with disabilities feeling competent and able to participate.
One participant who was a former refugee told us that she used the Internet for several purposes including; translating English terms into her native Spanish, staying in contact with her family in Colombia and keeping up with news and current affairs in Colombia, which tended not to be covered by mainstream news outlets in New Zealand.
“I don’t speak English, so it’s easier to use the Internet to translate …. And my family live in Colombia so social media is very very important, because that is my way of communicating with them.” – Former refugee, Wellington
Staying in contact with her family was particularly important to her, for obvious reasons. She was forced to leave Colombia because her safety was under threat, and it was equally important for her family to have news that she was safe in New Zealand as it was for her to hear from them and be reassured that they were well.
“Well I think that’s a very important because for instance my mum, she’s in Colombia and she’s at a certain age that her health is in a frail state, so I need to check on her all the time. So yes, I think that I fall into that group. For me having that contact was very important as soon as I got here.” – Former refugee, Wellington
She had also used the Internet to navigate finding housing and work in a new city.
“For instance I registered myself as a tenant [with Housing New Zealand], I did it online. Also I used it to find a job, online sending CV’s.” – Former refugee, Wellington
Multipurpose Use of Platforms
Interestingly, participants described using some platforms for multiple purposes. YouTube, for examples was used by participants for learning purposes. This included academic and more general learning. Young people told us that they watched tutorials and documentaries on YouTube specifically related to their school or university studies.
“I probably have learned more from YouTube than I have in school, or any form of education to be honest.” – Māori youth in tertiary education, Kawerau
People also used YouTube to learn a vast range of life skills, including how to cook a chicken, how to tie a tie, how to mix oil and petrol for a line trimmer and how to lift weights. YouTube was consistently described as a source of learning.
“I just watch a lot of meditation videos. Or ‘how to witchcraft.” – Youth in tertiary education, Kawerau
“I taught myself how to play the ukulele through Youtube.” – Kawerau Youth Council
YouTube was also widely used by participants as a source of entertainment, including to entertain children.