This paper explores young people's use of digital media focusing upon the use of social networking sites (SNS) as a means of networking and communication in the context of internet safety. It also considers cultural and gender differences in the use of the medium. It draws upon recent research conducted by the authors in the UK in 2009 and in the Kingdom of Bahrain in 2010 (the first large-scale research study on young people and internet usage to be conducted in a country in the Middle East).
A similar methodological approach was adopted in both studies, which included large random, stratified samples of young people aged 12–18 and focus groups with children aged 7 plus. Both studies investigated internet usage and online behaviours, definitions of risk, awareness of safety and use of SNS. In total, approximately 4,500 young people participated in the research, along with teachers, stakeholders and adults. Findings suggest that young people use digital media in much the same way regardless of the social and cultural contexts, but that culturally gendered perspectives place restrictions upon usage.