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Internet risks and expert views: a case study of the insider perspectives of youth workers in Hong Kong

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This study collects and analyses the viewpoints of front-line youth workers regarding the notion of ‘Internet risks’. Previous studies have examined and discussed various dangers of the Internet. Parental, school, and governmental interventions are often called for by those concerned. The implicit assumption is that these are the people who possess the expertise to tackle the problems at hand. Through participation in three forums focusing on ‘Internet risks’, and in-depth interviews with 10 such ‘experts’ in Hong Kong, the study examines if this is a valid assumption. It finds that experts perceive Internet risks rather differently. In addition to the more conventional views about content, contact and conduct risks, our interviewees are aware that a new order is quickly emerging in the new media environment. Despite being considered as ‘experts’, they do not necessarily know how to tackle the so-called ‘youth-at-risk’. Rather, they are exploring how they would capitalize on the opportunities offered by the developments. The key findings highlight the need to critically review the notion of ‘Internet risks’. As with other risk frameworks, the ultimate aim is to develop intervention programmes. In this regard, risks are often treated as concrete problems that can be solved. Youth experts, however, find that the changing scope, speed and persistence of communication in today's information society present the biggest challenge in youth work. The existing framework of risks was unable to describe and account for such risks. In response, Internet risk has to be reconceptualized so that more updated, relevant and imaginative intervention can be introduced.
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Keywords: Internet risks; communication studies; media literacy; youth culture

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Journalism and Communication, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Publication date: August 2, 2016

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