Digital Controllers

Paradoxical use of digital technologies

How these families viewed the internet might seem paradoxical. On the one hand they were motivated to access the leisure and entertainment opportunities online. But on the other hand, being online and socialising online conflicted with their cultural values.

The internet is seen as both a luxury and a disciplinary tool.

Culture of Digital Technology Use

Social media important to strengthen extended family bonds

Device/screen time was often rationed, due not only to economic constraints. Withholding or limiting access to the internet was itself a mechanism to enforce cultural values. Parents monitored children's internet interactions to guard against online risks such as bullying and crime.

High use of social media to strengthen wider family bonds

As an informational resource, the internet offered few opportunities to endorse their cultural values.

These families were more likely to have smartphone access to the internet. The absence of quality computers worked against any in-depth learning experiences online. This combined with a poor level of IT expertise, no access to institutional IT support, and limited time online resulted in lower levels of digital knowhow, confidence and motivation to use digital technologies.


There was little mobilization of existing capitals online. In viewing digital technology as largely a luxury, activities were random rather than purposeful.

Economic and social constraints resulted in limited opportunities for in-depth learning or engagement online, and consequently limited opportunities to build digital capital that might improve life circumstances. The one exception to this was their avid use of social media platforms which enabled constant connection to family, and dispersed whanau.

The children in these families aspire to practical, community based, non-digital jobs such as trades, community and personal service work. They tended to think about work in terms of how they might contribute to the safety and wellbeing or their communities.