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Finding a Way through the Digital Labyrinth Researched and written by Dr. Annamária Neag Illustrated by: Kata Tóth

Senait is a 17-year-old girl from Eritrea. She fled her home country to escape poverty and the lack of future for young people like her. She first bought a smart phone on her way towards Europe. This tool proved to be very useful as she could use the map function to get ahead and to keep in touch with friends and family.

It wasn’t enough to find her way to Europe. Arriving in Sweden, she realized that there are many unknowns and things were so different. She felt like being in a labyrinth.


School was so much different: everybody was using a laptop or a tablet. This was the first time she saw this type of device.

Virtual money was a new concept to her. She had to learn how to use a bank card and online banking on her phone.

However, her phone wasn’t very proficient as she was using a second-hand gadget. Top-ups were expensive too.

The online world was mesmerising: Instagram, Facebook, Youtube! She did not know, however, how to tell fake news from real or how to report online fraud.


For finding her way through this digital labyrinth, she could rely on her mentors and educators who helped her understand how these digital technologies work.

The friends she made in her new country showed her new apps and websites where she could find relevant information.

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She then discovered that many of the apps she was using could be helpful not only for spending time, but for learning new things too, such as learning a new language or looking up recipes.


Her own resilience was also important not only through her journey to Europe, but also in this new country.

Today, Senait is much more confident about using these technologies. However, to get here, she needed the support of her mentors & educators, her more skilled friends and her own curiosity to explore new online possibilities.

About the authors: Dr. Annamรกria Neag is a researcher based at Bournemouth University, UK. She is interested in media literacy education, media history and digital citizenship. Contact: aneag@bournemouth.ac.uk

Twitter: anna_neag

Kata Tรณth is a Hungarian illustrator with high sensitivity towards social projects. Contact: toth.kata.toth@gmail.com https://www.behance.net/katatoth Further information: https://www.bournemouth.ac.uk/research/projects/medialiteracy-unaccompanied-refugee-youth


Finding a Way through the Digital Labyrinth Between 2015-2018, more than 200.000 unaccompanied refugee children claimed asylum in Europe. The aim of our 2-year long ‘Media literacy for refugee youth’ project was to understand how these unaccompanied young refugees use digital technologies and social media. This was important in order to see whether these technologies aided by media literacy education can be used to help integration. The fieldwork was carried out in four European countries: Sweden, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK. The project built upon an ethnographic approach that involved interviews with a total of 56 refugee youth aged 14-19 and their mentors& educators; participant observation at children’s homes and community centres; and digital ethnography on Facebook with some of these children in the first three countries. The project also involved participatory action research with young refugees living in London, UK. The lived media experiences of unaccompanied refugee children can be best understood through the metaphor of the labyrinth: these children and young people, after their perilous journey to Europe, need to find a new home by going through a so-called 'digital labyrinth'. Unaccompanied refugee children are trying to find their way towards a new life and a new home, not only in the physical world, but through a digital labyrinth too. Just as with any labyrinth, young people can become easily lost through this journey as one needs multiple skills and tools for integrating successfully into a new society. In this digital labyrinth, young refugees can rely on internal and external help. Their resilience, their language skills and their diverse cultural backgrounds can help them in overcoming problems that come up in the virtual world. Similarly, external factors can be of great help. Mentors or guardians can be their first point of aid when it comes to problems and possibilities they face online. Peers whom have been in the country for a longer time or whom have had access to digital technologies for a longer time can help them in understanding the pitfalls of the digital life. Popular apps are also useful to learn new things, find relevant information or simply to feel better. The findings show that there are several external and internal factors that have a negative effect on getting ahead in this digital labyrinth. Out-of-date gadgets, lack of access to digital technologies and the internet, expensive mobile broadband plans can all have an impact on how young refugees can find their way in the digital world. The different national policies in the EU regarding the digital provisions for refugees greatly influence how young refugees cope in this virtual labyrinth. Internal factors, such as illiteracy can also hinder their development. Without proper educational provisions, many young refugees struggle because of poor IT skills. Findings also showed that many young people do not think critically about what they experience online, and they find it difficult to decide what information to trust. Media literacy education should be essential for these young people and their mentors, as this could provide them with the skills needed to stay safe and thrive not only in the online world, but also in the new country they are building a new life. The project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement no 747083. © Dr. Annamária Neag and Kata Tóth All rights reserved

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Finding a way through the digital labyrinth  

This is an illustration of the findings of the "Media literacy for refugee youth" project carried out at Bournemouth University. Research a...

Finding a way through the digital labyrinth  

This is an illustration of the findings of the "Media literacy for refugee youth" project carried out at Bournemouth University. Research a...

Profile for blueanna
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