Professor and Dean
School of Communication
University of Navarra, Spain
What are you currently working on?
Since I became Dean of the School of Communication, the time I can dedicate to research has been significantly reduced, but I´ve made a promise to myself that I will see a number of projects that I consider vital through to the end. The first project that I am really excited to be a part of is about studying parents´ beliefs, attitudes and behaviors as they deal with their children´s use of technology. At the end of January, we published a new report in Spain with the data that we collected so far and it clearly shows that there is a lot we need to do in this area. My immediate plan is to work with this information, put it together in a meaningful way and look for links with other recent studies that have been published which also try to understand the particularities and the special needs of parents in Spain.
Secondly, I am working with some colleagues to set up a new research project that would include a longitudinal cohort of young people. We have the grand ambition to track them for the next 10 to 12 years in order to understand how they solve the challenges of adulthood and which variables impact their transition from being a teenager to becoming an adult. Technology is clearly one of these variables and I am very curious to better grasp how their special relationship with tablets and phones (amongst other devices), impacts how they grow up and who they become. If anyone is interested in this, let me know.
Yael Warshel, our previous CAMmer in the Spotlight, would like to learn more about your research, including specifically, what drew you to study children and youth.
As far back as the very beginning of the new century (yes, I got my Ph.D. in the 20th century!) some colleagues and I were trying to create a research group that would allow us to pool our ideas around a common subject. Each of us shared our perspectives on topics such as consumer knowledge, children as users and technology and these quickly became the three dimensions that would shape our research agenda. Within this space, we decided to start researching how children were using ICT and what that would imply for their profile as future consumers. We soon became really fascinated by this question and it wasn’t long before we started to focus our energy on this topic. During the more than ten years that followed, we developed a methodology involving schools, educators and families, and with the help of some institutions and companies we surveyed more than 250,000 children and teens between the ages of 6 and 18 in Spain and in 9 different countries in Latin America. Since then I have been involved in other projects both nationally and internationally, on how to create a positive online environment for children.
What has been your most memorable project so far, and why?
Generaciones Interactivas (Interactive Generations), which ran from 2007 until 2012, was my largest research undertaking by far. It allowed me to understand the global impact that technology has on children, and even today I still use and build on the findings.
Another project that is close to my heart took place in 2017, when I helped to develop a guide for a secure and safe use of social media for children with special needs. Although it was comparatively small in size, I learned a lot by interacting with educators and teachers of children with special needs and I was surprised how important and enriching technology could be for these children, and of course conversely, quite harmful when not used appropriately.
Which achievement are you most proud of, and why?
For some of the countries for which we published our findings from the Generaciones Interactivas project, it was the first time the issue of children and screen usage was dealt with. It was great to see how these reports generated a massive public response and we saw how the research itself triggered a number of policy changes, beyond the awareness indicators that we often target. That was incredibly rewarding for us as a research team.
More recently I have been advising an educational institution in Spain who has launched a platform to engage parents on ideas and concrete tips regarding social media. I´m really proud of the work they are doing not only in terms of content, but also because they are setting a positive and humorous tone to talk about something that everybody is quite worried about. The platform is called Empantallados.com, if anyone is curious.
What is an important question from parents and practitioners that we as academics cannot provide a good answer to yet?
I am constantly asked by parents: what is the right age for my child to own a phone? This is the question that I think we cannot answer properly because it ought to take into account the personal knowledge and circumstances of each child and that´s something only his or her parents can know. But it does not stop parents from asking.
And then, the one I would like to answer in much more detail is about the opportunities and the really good things that the Internet offers children and young people. We are very detailed about the risks, but I think that when formulating opportunities we are not as specific as we can be.
What would be your work motto?
If my research matters to someone other than academics, then it’s definitely worth continuing the work we are doing.
Which of your publications is your favorite, and why?
When we published Menores y redes sociales (Minors and social networks) in 2011 it was a hit because it was the first time social media platforms were placed on the spot. That also helped me to realize how social media combined with personal devices such as mobile phones, was a real challenge when talking about teens and technology and since then I have been particularly interested in this subject. Unfortunately, the report is only available in Spanish.
If you had unlimited resources, what kind of project would you want to do and why?
I would love to set up a project concerning young people´s perspectives in order to get a deeper sense of their views on technology, their fears and the challenges they face in their daily lives, but also in sketching their future realities. I know it is not only a question of money, but I would really like to have this group collaborate in defining the actual research question, so that it is not just the case of adults studying teens. Both qualitative and quantitative approaches would be interesting and, of course, with an international scope. Is it enough of a research wish-list?
If you had to give one piece of advice to young CAM scholars, what would it be?
Don’t say no to an opportunity because it doesn’t fit 100% with your interest at a particular moment. Sometimes that opportunity mixed with your own curiosity, will open doors to an incredible network of people and will allow for a worthy and fascinating research topic to emerge.
Who would you like to put in the spotlight next, and why?
I would like to nominate Giovanna Mascheroni. I have had the opportunity of working with Giovanna a couple of times in the past and I would like to know about her research in more detail.
To download a copy of this edition of CAMmer in the spotlight click here.