Adolescents and identity formation in a risky online environment. The role of negative user-generated and xenophobic websites.

Ionela-Maria RĂCĂTĂU


Abstract:

The great expansion of the internet over the last years and the changing nature of media use have produced several concerns among scholars, varying from the potential risks that this new medium has brought, to the way it could possibly interfere in adolescents’ processes of identity formation. Since the internet use is associated with accessing- more or less willingly- various types of information within various websites, this paper aims to explore the factors that stand for adolescent’s browsing negative contents in the online environment, such as harmful user-generated and xenophobic contents. Different approaches of identity formation are put into perspective arguing that such risky experiences can incorporate notable benefts for young people, leading to identity construction. The way they present themselves, perform and interact in the virtual space might be indications of the fact that they actually search for experiences that cross over the protective boundaries in order to escape from the common and usual contexts in which they live, constructing in this way an identity that is more complex and more helpful when it comes to facing negative situation. Following this perspective, adolescents should not be perceived as victims of the virtual space but rather, they should be considered resourceful persons who are able to protect themselves from the dangers that might occur online.

Keywords: identity formation, online risks, online performance, negative user-generated content, xenophobic content

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