Study — Media Habits of MENA Youth: A Three Country Survey
New media has encroached into the lives of Middle Eastern youth in ways unimaginable just ten years ago. Upon visiting any Middle Eastern city, observers are struck by the number of satellite dishes covering the diverse landscape, spanning the impoverished as much as the affluent neighborhoods. Internet penetration rates across the region continue to grow exponentially, while governments in panic acknowledge this growth with hasty policies and regulations.
On almost every winding street of a Cairo, Beirut, or Damascus old town, a plethora of Internet cafes serve and entertain a vibrant youthful population. Cell phone ringtones have become as familiar as calls to prayer.
Signs of youth increasingly succumbing to a culture saturated with global information attract heated debates across the political, commercial, cultural and religious spheres, with predictions about its impact ranging from an acceleration in democratization and development, to a facilitation of Western cultural colonization and a breakdown in social norms and traditions.
Despite this intense interest in how, why and what media do Middle Eastern youth consume and produce and with what potential effects, there remains a dearth of scientific data critically needed to inform this topic.
This project aimed to examine media consumption and production habits by mapping trends and developments among Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) youth. In its first phase, the pilot project surveyed 2,744 teens and young adults, aged 13 to 28, living or studying in three countries: Jordan, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.
The study generated a status report on what media do these surveyed youth use to access and generate news, information, and entertainment material, through print, broadcast, satellite, mobile, online, and Web 2.0 media. The study looks for indicators of such consumption and production habits, including gender, education level, socioeconomic status, country of residence, and age. In addition, the study evaluates the level of trust and engagement and the type of information accessed and generated through the various media used.
This pilot study used a self-administered cross-sectional survey. Surveys are the most effective way to assess the opinions and track the behavioral and attitudinal trends among a large population (Shoemaker and McCombs, 2003, p. 231). “The survey design provides a quantitative or numeric description of trends, attitudes, or opinions of a population by studying a sample of that population” (Creswell, 2003, p. 153).
The researcher chose a self-administered survey approach because it saves time and expense, avoids interviewers’ biases, and offers respondents more privacy (Shoemaker and McCombs, 2003). These priorities are appropriate for a pilot study, but tend to skew the results by over-representing certain segments of the target public.
Because the survey methodology deals with human subjects, the researchers sought permission from the Internal Review Board at the American University of Beirut. The IRB granted the study “exempt” status permission. The research team ensured confidentiality and anonymity of the participants following the standard techniques of ethical research conduct.
Summary of Findings
The study used a purposive cluster sampling technique and a self-administered questionnaire. It focused on nine areas:
- Language use with various media
- Online social networking and blogging habits
- News consumption
- Entertainment and leisure-related media activities
- Television habits
- Work- or schoolwork-related media activities
- Internet use, speed and cost, and computer skills
- Attitudes toward the Internet, online restrictions and privacy
- Online purchasing and downloading habits
Among the significant findings, the survey found the participants highly adept at using new media. They spent considerable time consuming new and traditional media, but much less time producing media content. For instance, the vast majority of participants indicated that they had never blogged.
In addition, those who did produce media content, through blogging or otherwise, tended to do it in a language other than their native language. Indeed, with the exception of news, the majority of surveyed youth consumed and produced media in English, rather than Arabic.
Furthermore, the participants used media predominantly for entertainment, for connecting with others, and for work or schoolwork, but less often for current affairs, for expressing their opinions, or for political activism.
Sponsored by the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (IFI) at the American University of Beirut (AUB) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
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