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Adolescents Engagement and Skills Acquisition in Digital Spaces

supporting Quicksand Design

This study was an opportunity to go more in-depth into some of the areas we examined in the situational analysis of Digital Learning in Indonesia conducted earlier with Quicksand Design. As identified in that report, while digital learning spaces hold immense potential for adolescents’ learning and their futures, there are still many issues limiting the potential of these digital spaces. The study included research in four countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand, with Empatika supporting Quicksand in Indonesia. We conducted participatory focus group discussions and in-depth interviews with young women and young men (aged 10-19) in South Sulawesi and West Java to better understand the barriers and enablers that impact young people’s online experiences, and to explore pathways that could help adolescents become active and contributing participants in the digital world. A survey was also conducted across the four study countries.

Across the four countries, the research found that adolescents are using digital spaces primarily for entertainment and leisure, rather than for exploring opportunities for skill development and active engagement. The research also found that Southeast Asia suffers from significant digital inequality between urban and rural communities and entrenched gender inequalities that persist in the online world. Though the anonymity provided by the internet offers some adolescents the confidence to openly express themselves online, others face excessive harassment from unknown people online. To compound these risks, most adolescents do not have adequate skills to protect themselves from such online risks.

Some of the other study insights included:

  • Though digital spaces have opened avenues for adolescents in low-resource areas to connect and share beyond their immediate communities, poor internet connectivity, financial constraints, and gender barriers limit their access.

  • Distracting home environments, ineffective teaching styles, and limited social interaction with peers and teachers make distance education ineffective - resulting in adolescents preferring in-person engagement for formal education.

  • Pre-existing gender norms and stereotypes influence what content girls seek out when online and what content they are offered. 


Bandung, West Java; Makassar, South Sulawesi


pFGDs, in-depth interviews


Adolescent men and women

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