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Survey: Internet, mobile phones enhance adolescents’ voice

  • Published at 10:44 pm December 9th, 2020
phone hand technology digital smartphone

Bangladeshi parents are worried about possible romantic relationships their children may get involved in, and are unwilling to believe that they use the internet for educational purposes, finds survey

Adolescents in Bangladesh use the internet and mobile phones in multifarious ways to build their confidence, such as learning new skills and engaging with global and local movements.

A qualitative survey conducted by BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), Brac University among 64 school-going male and female adolescents of grade eight, depicted this positive scenario.

However, only certain groups of adolescents can enjoy these opportunities.

Through focus group discussions and in-depth interviews, the researchers found that adolescent girls, specifically from the middle or lower socioeconomic classes and from rural areas, use their parents’ or siblings’ mobile phones, implying that the time they spend on the devices is limited as they “snatch” bits of time in between uses by the person owning them

These girls are also limited by physical mobility and strict supervision of their parents, which means that they cannot access public WiFi or go out to buy mobile data.

The survey, conducted in one English medium school and three Bangla medium schools spanning across central Dhaka, an urban slum, and a village in Comilla from July 2019 to February 2020, also uncovered negative biases in the minds of the parents and teachers who were interviewed as a part of the sample.

Parents were found to be worried about possible romantic relationships their children may get involved in, and were unwilling to believe that adolescents use the internet for educational purposes.

Experts share their thoughts during the webinar titled 'Adolescent Voice and Agency Through ICT and Mobile Use' on Wednesday, December 9, 2020 | Courtesy

So, they invariably monitor their daughters’ use of mobile phones and internet more closely than that of sons.

Even teachers reported to be providing more opportunities for boys to use computers in ICT labs, assuming their interest and skills over girls.

Findings from the study, conducted under the Gender and Adolescence Global Evidence (GAGE) Responsive Research and Evaluation Fund, were shared at a webinar titled “Adolescent Voice and Agency Through ICT and Mobile Use.” 

Secretary to Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs Kazi Rowshan Akhter,  chief guest of the webinar, said through their “accelerating protection for children” project, they are doing their best for the adolescents.

"The key components of the protects are: empowerment of adolescents, capacity building and quality services, supporting policy formulation and advocacy, monitoring and knowledge management and communication for development.”

Maheen Sultan, senior fellow of practice, BIGD said BIGD has been involved with the gender and adolescent global evidence program since its beginning in 2015.

"One of the important things that we aim to explore is what strategies are most effective in transforming the lives of adolescent boys and girls. 

“When we were carrying out the work in 2018, looking at adolescent lives and transitions in urban slums in Dhaka, we found that, one of the areas which we haven't realized was too important was the importance of access to mobile phones ICT Technology," she added.

Dr Imran Matin, executive director of BIGD, said that they have started a whole initiative around inclusive digitization or digitization for inclusive development, where they want to really bring in a strong social science research perspective to ensure that the vision and the ambition of Digital Bangladesh actually benefits and creates an impact on lives of the people.

Lopita Huq, research fellow at BIGD, presented the key findings of the survey.

Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, senior adviser, BIGD; Silvia Guglielmi, qualitative researcher, GAGE; Junnatul Ferdosh (Ani), national consultant - Educational Innovation, a2i; Sabrina Shaheed, principal, Sir John Wilson School; Dr Ananya Raihan, CEO, iSocial also shared their thoughts during the virtual discussion.

Dr Imran Matin, executive director, BIGD presided over the session.

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