UNICEF study: Digital tools provide Kenyan youth with opportunities to explore their identities

Mary* (16) and Portia* (17) live in Kawangware – a low-income neighbourhood in Nairobi, Kenya. Neither are currently attending school – Portia is helping her family by looking after her older sister’s baby while Mary is studying to become a hairdresser to supplement her family’s income.

Nevertheless, both have their own mobile phones and consider them to be prized possessions. They both started using Facebook about seven months ago, and when asked, consider themselves to be ‘experts’ on how to use the social network.

“When I’m stressed out I play games on my phone, they help me stay awake or not to focus on what I am stressing about. Like when I do not have money to buy something that I need I keep my mind off by playing a phone game. I feel smart. When am able to score a lot of points I feel very excited,” says Portia.

Mary disagrees: “When you’re playing games on your phone you can’t do anything else, I prefer to listen to the radio.”

Portia and Mary’s experiences provide a brief snapshot of some of the findings on digital access, knowledge and practices that have emerged from a UNICEF study launched today. Entitled A (Private) Public Space, the study explores how Kenya’s rapidly transforming digital landscape is impacting on the rights of children in the country.

The study was conducted as part of the Voices of Youth Citizens initiative. It focuses on Kenya, and is based on focus group discussions conducted in early 2013.

The title of the study was inspired by one of the strongest sentiments that was shared by participants – that digital tools provide them with one of the few opportunities to create and explore their own identifies, free from the influence or interference of family members.

Read the full story about the study and access the full-length report here


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