Navigating in a context of exclusion: the roles social media play in the lives of teenagers placed in care institutions in Brazil

Directeur /trice Daniel Pascal Stoecklin
Co-directeur(s) /trice(s)
Résumé de la thèse

In Brazil, there are over 30,000 children and teenagers placed in care institutions, with reasons for their placements ranging from abuse, neglect, violence, orphanhood, street situations, among others. The Brazilian Statute of the Child and of the Adolescent establishes that violations of their rights are cause for state intervention, and placement in shelters is the most extreme measure, resulting in the removal of these subjects from the conviviality within their family and communities. Due to the vulnerability of their circumstances, teenagers need to navigate a complex context of exclusion that they are immersed in: not only due to personal characteristics such as skin color, health, body integrity, and addiction, but also those emerging from social exclusion – such as inequality, poverty, links with drug cartels and the reason for their placement, those emerging from their situation of living in a shelter and being removed from family, and the amalgamation of all the individual contexts of exclusion that affect the whole of the shelter.

In those circumstances, it is important to highlight that life in shelters can be mundane and joyful, and they are teenagers like others, who play, go out, do sports and like to use the Internet and social media. In this thesis, I seek to understand what the roles of social media in the lives of teenagers in their context of exclusion are, and how this interaction influences two rights that are connected with their situation: access to the Internet and to live within with family and community context. For that, I employed a methodology consisting of an inductive-deductive circular trajectory, with interviews with 61 teenagers and 27 staff in 14 different institutions in 7 cities and in all 5 regions in Brazil. Finding very little data for comparison, I sought to explore this phenomenon with the framework of script by Akrich (1987), the reflexive narrative of the self from Giddens (1991) and the living rights approach by Hanson & Nieuwenhuys (2013).

The roles identified are multiple and subjective: the institutions problematize and define it through names such as “problem”, “nuisance”, “obstacle”, or “opportunity” and “a right”, having two respective profiles: prohibitive (nine shelters) or permissive (5 shelters). Teenagers’ usage is much more nuanced and show that they make it play roles such as to empower themselves, deal with their traumas, hope and cope, in a general note that they seek to fashion some normalcy of their lives, strive for stability and take control of their narratives. However, designers of social media also push their own roles of making users constantly engage and share information with others, and I argue that observing the prescriptions and the reactions to it help us understand some dynamics about life in shelters. All these roles interact and while having the power the further the exclusion of teenagers, they also allow them to appropriate it, for instance, to practice their rights to access the Internet and to live within families and community context through more abstract concepts such as reconstruing their identities, longing and working for connection and connecting with lost ones. Overall, taking into consideration how teenagers show a protagonist ontology, such appropriation reveals the most important role: which is to navigate their context of exclusion.


Statut terminé
Délai administratif de soutenance de thèse 2023