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Digital inequalities and social media: experiences of young people in Chile

Sarah McNicol (Education and Social Research Institute, Manchester Metropolitan University, Crewe, UK)
Karine Aillerie (National Centre for Pedagogical Documentation, Universite de Poitiers, Poitiers, France)

Information and Learning Sciences

ISSN: 2398-5348

Article publication date: 10 July 2017




This paper aims to report the findings from a survey of secondary school students in Chile by exploring their use of social networking services for information-seeking purposes.


An online survey was distributed via Chile’s Ministry of Education and 12,354 responses were received.


The results indicate that young people in Chile extensively use SNSs, but there are differences in the ways in which they use these services, specifically for information purposes. When considering school-related activities, there are differences in the use of SNSs by students in different types of schools. Those in academic-focussed institutions are more likely to use SNSs for school-related information purposes and are more likely to publish most types of information on SNSs than their counterparts in vocational schools.

Research limitations/implications

The sample was self-selecting and excluded students without online access to the survey.

Practical implications

The findings indicate more needs to be done in schools serving lower socio-economic communities to support students’ use of SNSs for information-seeking, especially for academic purposes.

Social implications

The findings suggest that school-associated social capital may have a role in shaping students’ use of SNSs for information and learning purposes and, potentially, in exacerbating digital inequalities.


The focus on the use of social media specifically for information-seeking distinguishes this research. The findings challenge possible assumptions about the links between social media use and social class and suggest that differences may be exacerbated by school practices.



McNicol, S. and Aillerie, K. (2017), "Digital inequalities and social media: experiences of young people in Chile", Information and Learning Sciences, Vol. 118 No. 7/8, pp. 372-384.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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