"Chiller à la maison": a look at the digital practices of Quebec teenagers during the pandemic

Teenagers are social beings. However, all socialization spaces in Quebec were closed in the spring of 2020 at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. There was no longer any opportunity for physical contact. Nina Duque, a lecturer at the Université du Québec à Montréal, took an interest in the daily lives of Quebec teens during this troubled period.

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Teenagers are social beings. However, all socialization spaces in Quebec were closed in the spring of 2020 at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. There was no longer any opportunity for physical contact. Nina Duque, a lecturer at the Université du Québec à Montréal, took an interest in the daily lives of Quebec teens during this troubled period.

This is not the first time Ms. Duque has done research on adolescence. "You have to take the time to listen to them, and above all, beware of normative discourse and preconceived ideas," she said during a presentation at the 2022 Acfas Congress. "Young people are always talking to the 'us', they have their own language, their own social codes, they are fascinating."

As part of her research, she interviewed 25 youth between the ages of 12 and 15. Specifically, she focused on their digital use during the spring 2020 lockdown.

She begins by reminding us that these young people, born after 2008, have never known the world without the Internet and social networks. They had digital devices in hand, watched videos on TikTok, exchanged messages on SnapChat and shared photos on Instagram long before the pandemic.

"This was already part of their daily lives. In their digital uses, young people are looking for fun above all else, they believe deeply in 'trial and error', they share access to accounts (it's the ultimate mark of trust), they need feedback and keep a social connection at all times. Video games are a group activity they particularly enjoy," she says.

"It's okay to be wrong, we love each other the same."

- A 13 year old girl.

Moreover, "no educational practice is presented by the young people. Everything related to school is not considered as digital use for them, because it does not correspond to the criteria already mentioned".

"For us, a FaceTime is not a meeting that you organize [...] Technologies are not specific meetings that we give ourselves."

A 15 year old boy. 

Continuity of use

So what happened during the spring 2020 lockdown? "This period was filled with paradoxes, contradictions for young people. They were happy and unhappy at the same time. Some felt less stress and pressure, but they missed human contact and used their digital devices to keep the connection constant."

"Good thing technology is there to keep in touch with my friends now that we don't see each other."

A 15 year old boy.

Many parents have expressed concern about the drastic increase in their teens' screen time. "Yes, the time increased, but there were no new uses that developed. They continued what they were doing before, but more, because there was nothing else to do," says Nina.

In fact, young people pretty much stopped sharing things publicly on social media. "They didn't have anything to share anymore. They focused on discussions (text, audio, or video) with their friends. "Conversations were open all the time."

"Since I can't go out, I am now training with my team in live. "

A 13 year old boy.

Routine

Their digital practices were both spontaneous and organized. They served as a backdrop for structuring their daily lives, and the youth came to create a new routine through them. "They used the technologies to make a schedule for themselves for the day, it came naturally to them, without them realizing it."

Many parents of teenagers may recognize their offspring in this schedule:

  • Morning press review
    • No interaction, we don't tell anyone we are online.
    • We look at what happened since the day before, while we have breakfast and we wake up quietly.
    • We visit sites for ourselves.
  • Afternoon: social activities
    • Chat, audio and video streaming calls.
  • Evening: entertainment
    •  We listen to movies, series.
    •  We play video games.
    •  Alone or in a group.
  • Night: hallway conversation before going to bed
    • We reconnect with our close friends to chat, but only in audio.
    • Many fell asleep during the conversations.

"In the morning I don't text, I just go for a walk...it's just my little things for me."

A 14 year old girl.

Leave your room

While their digital practices served as a benchmark for many youth during the pandemic, primarily because they allowed them to stay in touch with their friends, youth also felt the need to switch off. Some turned off notifications at some point, saturation was observed.

"We talk about the bedroom culture among young people. But rest assured, they have come out of their caves. They've reclaimed other areas of the house. They started to participate more in family activities again. They didn't want to isolate themselves in their bedrooms," concluded Nina Duque.

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About the Author

Martine Rioux
Martine Rioux
After studying public communication, Martine worked as a journalist for various publications, before pursuing her career as an interactive communications consultant at La Capitale, a financial group, then at Québec Numérique, an organization she took over as general manager before making the jump. as political advisor in the office of the Minister for Digital Government Transformation. Today she is the online Editor-in-Chief and Special Projects Manager at l'École branchée. Her dream: that everyone has access to technology and can use it as a tool for learning and opening up to the world.

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