In the contemporary world, young people have been the subjects or concern of an enormous amount of research which assumes that they constitute a separate and significant category from the adults. Sociologists have come to recognise “youth as a transitional period between dependence and independence” (Ewen, 1983, p. 23) as well as a period for reshaping values and exploring one’s relationship with the outside world. Frith mentioned that ‘youth’ no longer describes a specific type of viewer but rather, describes an attitude and style of viewing behaviour (1993, p.75).
They are a distinctive social group of people, engaging in the use of media, particularly the new media of today. New media, also known as the second media age, are technologically developed forms of communication systems that allow a wide distribution of messages from one point to another, conquering space and time through digitalisation. They unite and bring people closer together, creating what theorist; Marshall McLuhan has called a ‘global village’, a world turned into a single community through the annihilation of space in time (O’Shaughnessy, 1999, p.7).
Unlike the first media age, second media age is a decentred and two-way communication, emphasising on interactivity. More than merely offering vast information and entertainment to the audiences, new media provide youths a self-identity, a sense of individuality and a way to think differently from the others. With new media today, youths’ thinking and attitudes towards life may be manoeuvred in one way or another. Given these factors, it can be seen that new media are relatively important in the lives of young people.
In the essay, I will be discussing on the new media in relation to youth utilisation, with focus on electronic media, comprising of the computer, Internet and mobile phone. In addition, I will also be looking into the various effects new media might have on both the youth and the society. Are new media changing the nature and lives of young people’s leisure and sociability? The answer is ‘Yes’. With new mediums brought into their lives, one’s patterns of behaviour, modes of accessing information and entertainment as well as ways of seeing the world and interacting with one another have changed in some ways or other.
Without doubt, new media do have an impact on youths’ lives as they are said to be “selling young people an element of identity” (Anderson & Miles, 1999, p. 108). Also, because of the existing new media, many youths are seeking an identity through media exposure. Today, youths are actively engaged in new media, particularly the electronic media for their own needs and purposes. They may utilize it as a means of escaping from the unpleasantness and stress from the world they live in or alternatively as a source of information, relaxation or social contact.
Being able to be engaged in the new media, youths foresee the opportunities for creativity, self expression, independence, greater flexibility and sociability as well as gaining a vast knowledge through explorations. It also allows for greater mobility where they have the ability to ‘move’ from one place to another without having to travel physically (Steven, 1995, p. 17). Electronic media comprise of mediums such as the computer, Internet and mobile phone used for the transmission of information and experience to everyone in everyplace.
With the existence of such mediums, physical distance is no longer regarded as a barrier in the communication process. The electronic media have shaped the youth culture by changing their patterns of communication and redefining their community life (Schultze, 1991, p. 50). It presents youths with more and broader cultural options in terms of dressing, hairstyles, fashion and behaviour patterns. Computer distinguishes itself as one of the electronic mediums which is of great importance to the young generation.
The rising of the computer to youths’ leisure activities is bringing about many changes. In some ways, the computer is a hybrid of the book and television. It provides information and entertainment in one’s private space without having to leave the home setting, thus presenting a new platform of engagement in social lives. Youths get addicted to the computer and a close bond between youths and the computer is eventually fostered.