The Internet has become a tool that is used not only to communicate across vast distances, but to also influence the life, behavior, and attitudes of citizens [1
]. This new way of communicating has generated, according to Dentzel [4
], a social debate on the forms of communication brought about by the Internet. These new ways of communicating between people through the Internet have increased the use of social networks or digital applications [5
]. These aspects affect social relations because it frees people from their geographical space and at the same time construct new communities. Children, adults, and young people acquire new communication patterns and values that influence their behavior [1
]. This is a focus of interest of this study, in which it becomes necessary to study how young people perceive the acquisition of values in the digital context in which they live, considering that they acquire specific patterns that influence their development.
Following this line, not only the Internet, but the media, in general, has become a symbolic representation. In this sense, it is noted that “the change from social life to virtual life through social networks is one of the greatest dangers of the abusive use of new technologies for young people” [8
] (p. 1). In particular, the Internet and social networks that characterize it, have an undeniable impact on the user’s behavior and acquisition of values [9
] because they become generators of content and information [12
]. Today, this fact is accentuated, as interactivity has become the modus operandi of society in general and specifically of young people. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are synchronous and asynchronous communication channels, as stated by authors such as Túñez and Sixto [13
], which transmit not only information and content but also values and forms of behavior that influence the construction and development of personality. “The digital generation is being the first to experience a series of drastic changes in accessing and processing information” [8
] (p. 2), a fact that irremediably triggers new ways of behaving, acting, and even interpreting the reality to which all young people have access [14
]. These ways of understanding and acting on the Internet with oneself and with others, of acquiring values and behaving on the networks, are some of the questions that have given rise to the study presented in this paper. To this end and considering what the true vision of the protagonists of these networks is, the aim focuses on discovering what the perception of young people is [9
] on the use of the Internet and social values. To make understand their views, to detect the possible needs, interests, and realities with which they live within the Network [16
] (p. 16) “... the truly important thing is not knowing that he/she is able to produce or consume, or to reflect about what kind of relationships he/she can establish with the media or the environment, but at what expense, with what values and with what ethical principles”. In other words, values, ethical behaviors in networks and media are fundamental for a better understanding of these new communication processes. In this sense, it is worth highlighting the statement made by Castells [17
] when he indicated that “the Internet is an instrument that develops, but does not change behaviors, but rather behaviors are appropriated by the Internet and, therefore, are amplified and enhanced from what they are” (p. 8). In addition to this, it is worth noting the relevance of the proper use of the Internet and social networks as digital leisure spaces [18
] where adolescents socialize [19
]. These are places of coexistence and participation; locations in which privacy and identities are established as basic pillars to be safeguarded. Nevertheless, it can be stated that “in general, young people use social networks as an extension of their social life and not as a substitute” [20
] (p. 124). However, unquestionably “social networks increase the possibility of individual views, opinions and issues being incorporated into the public sphere” [21
] (p. 274), a fact that has a determining influence on the construction of users’ personalities. Undeniably, “social networks have become the key tool for communication and interaction among young adolescents that has given rise to a new digital coexistence” [22
]. However, social networks also generate addiction and must be analyzed in detail [23
]. This is the point where the value of use should be emphasized since technology in itself is not pernicious. The negative aspect lies in the different aspects linked to its use and management. In this sense, the role of education is key to analyzing the different individual and social skills or competencies that society demands specifically and in general. Therefore, it is necessary, as indicated in the title of the Unesco report [24
], to rethink education and develop new training approaches [25
The current situation and context require “new forms of education that foster the competencies that societies and economies need today and tomorrow” [24
] (p. 3). Beyond the learning of knowledge, it is necessary to consider the axiological dimension of critical competence [26
] needed in the digital society [27
]. A media ecosystem [28
] in which audiovisual content is spread immediately implies a notable diffusion of values and counter-values [29
] that citizens and young people must detect. Therefore, in the academic field, specifically in higher education, it has been observed that the Internet and its tools have taken a fundamental role [30
], especially this last year with the pandemic, in which the increase of a digital divide has been noticed [31
], or the negative effects of the suspension of classes have been experienced. Faced with this new situation in which social networks are present in a hegemonic way, values, skills, and competencies must be rethought and included in the curricula, because according to Cotino [29
], alluding to a United Nations report [32
], the use of digital technologies involve risk for human values in education and quality; therefore, they need to be known, evaluated, and acted upon so that they are respected. In this sense, some authors [33
] state that the arrival of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) has generated rethinking on how to manage the training of university students, the future professionals who will be agents of change in which they must be educated in ethical, social, and civic values. These are skills that the digital society demands from the so-called millennials [34
] or the so-called by Children’s Space, Generation T; skills that should be present in the training of all university students since they constitute the future professionals [35
]. This means that professionals should use ICTs and multiple devices [36
] with minimum skills for accurate performance. Teaching this must be accompanied by new methodologies that adapt to current demands, new ways of teaching among which are active methodologies that favor learning and the acquisition of skills in an active way, focused on the student [37
]. These are innovative ways of teaching that aim to develop in students, from an early age [41
], the necessary skills to identify values and counter-values in the environments to which they are exposed.
These are forms of teaching that take into account emotional competencies [42
] directly related to values [43
]. In the university context, the Tunning Project refers to values as a fundamental part of the competencies of higher education students. A project that can be considered key to the training of network users who indirectly demand media literacy [16
] that empowers them [44
]. In addition, it can be stated that values are the cornerstone of education and must be taken into account in the integral education of students that allows them to become active users [45
] capable of producing and designing content [46
]. This ability to produce and design, not just consume, requires an active role to detect the values transmitted by different media; an aspect that undoubtedly constitutes an advantage when using social networks [47
]. That is to say, an education that allows them to participate in on- and off-line life [48
]. These reasons justify the interest and need for research such as the one presented here, which seeks, in the digital society also known as multiscreen [49
], to understand the perception that the participating sample has of the transmission of values through the Internet.
The results of the research were based on the hypotheses proposed and the corresponding treatment of the data obtained. In the first instance, and referring to Table 1
, it was observed that student perception regarding the identification of social values is significantly related to gender, age, institution, and academic year. A medium positive correlation was found for gender (p
= 0.049) and academic year (p
= 0.049) [68
]. Therefore, the general hypothesis (H1
) is accepted: There is a relationship between Internet use and social values from the perception of university students with regards to the purpose of using the Internet, according to gender and academic year (Table 3
In Table 4
, it is observed that the relevance of internet use is related to the internet transmitting values according to gender (p
= 0.037) and academic year (p
= 0.039), showing within the range of average negative correlation; while the years of internet use is related to the internet transmitting values according to gender (p
= 0.029), specialty (p
= 0.028), and academic year (p
= 0.024). Likewise, the purpose of internet use for entertainment is related to the internet transmitting values according to gender (p
= 0.029), age (p
= 0.045), and academic year (p
= 0.031); showing the latter as values within the range of medium positive correlation. Therefore, the general hypothesis (H2) is accepted: There is a relationship between Internet use and the Internet transmitting values, according to the relevance of Internet use, years of Internet use, and the purpose of Internet use for communication.
In Table 5
, it is observed that the use of the Internet and the Internet promoting values for the purpose of using the Internet to communicate, according to gender (p
= 0.041), age (p
= 0.026), and academic year (p
= 0.045) are in a range of average positive correlation. Therefore, the general hypothesis (H3) is accepted: There is a relationship between Internet use and the Internet promoting values, according to the purpose of Internet use for communication.
shows that Internet use and social values in the category of values used in communication with peers on the Internet for the purpose of using the Internet to communicate according to gender (p
= 0.022), age (p
= 0.027), and academic year (p
= 0.021) are in a range of average positive correlation. Therefore, the general hypothesis (H4) is accepted: There is a relationship between Internet use and social values in the category of values used in communicating with peers on the Internet, according to the purpose of using the Internet to communicate.
shows that Internet use and social values regarding values used in communication with friends on the Internet for the purpose of using the Internet to communicate according to gender (p
= 0.004), age (p
= 0.004), and academic year (p
= 0.004) are in a weak positive correlation range.
Therefore, although with some weakness, it is considered that the general hypothesis (H5) is accepted: There is a relationship between Internet use and social values regarding values used in communicating with friends on the Internet, according to the purpose of using the Internet to communicate.
shows that Internet use and social values in the category of values used in communication with family members on the Internet for the purpose of using the Internet to communicate according to gender (p
= 0.035), age (p
= 0.048), and academic year (p
= 0.041) are in a range of average positive correlation. Therefore, the general hypothesis (H6) is accepted: There is a relationship between Internet use and social values in the category of values used in communicating with family members on the Internet, according to the purpose of using the Internet to communicate.
4. Discussion and Conclusions
According to the results obtained and the discussion and conclusions, it should be noted that the proposed general objective, which sought to determine whether there is a relationship between the use of the Internet and the social values perceived by university students, has been confirmed, highlighting the variables of gender, age, and academic year. It is highlighted that university students are able to identify that the Internet transmits values in their social relationships with colleagues, friends, and family.
The first hypothesis (H1) affirmed that there is a relationship between the use of the Internet by university students and their perception of social values when using the Internet, according to the variables of gender and academic year (p
= 0.049, respectively). These results coincide with recent research [69
]. In this study, the authors affirm that there is a presence of social values related to the use of the Internet. Additionally, other authors [70
] demonstrated some differences between the genders in the use of the Internet. Although none of these investigations specify the variables mentioned here, they do specify that there is a generalized tendency for young people to use the Internet and to be aware that some social values are present in their communicative processes.
Likewise, several studies show that young people use the Internet for fun and entertainment, as Cloquel [72
] explains. It should be noted that young people are able to use values such as respect and responsibility when communicating on networks.
Therefore, the responsible and respectful use of communication through the networks contrasts with hypothesis H2, which states that university students are able to identify social values when using the Internet to communicate and entertain themselves according to gender (p
= 0.029), age (p
= 0.045), and academic year (p
= 0.031), as Viñals [73
] has also stated that young people perceive the Internet as a means to relate, communicate, inform themselves and also entertain themselves, especially highlighting friendship, cooperation, freedom, and responsibility.
In relation to the following hypotheses, it should be noted that there is a relationship between the use of the Internet and the promotion of values according to gender (0.041), age (0.026), and academic year (0.045) in university students (H3). Another hypothesis that has been tested is that young people are aware of the use of the Internet when they communicate with their peers and the values that are promoted (H4), taking into account gender (p
= 0.022), age (p
= 0.027), and academic year (0.021). This hypothesis (H4) is contrasted by stating that there is a relationship between Internet use and the social values transmitted when students communicate with friends through the Internet according to sex (0.004), age (0.004), and academic year (0.004). All the previous hypotheses are contrasted with the studies defended by Ballesta, Lozano, Cerezo, and Soriano [74
], in which they affirm that 80.7% of the young people surveyed do not admit strangers on social networks, which shows that students act responsibly. According to Miralles [75
], in social networks, there are languages, modes of expression, values, and lifestyles that influence the identity of young people. This implies that social values are acquired. For example, Olcott et al. [76
] emphasize that to achieve an ethically mature society, the construction of individual and collective values must develop throughout the life cycle of the person.
Likewise, another hypothesis (H6) has also been contrasted, which states that there is a significant relationship between the use of the Internet by young university students and the identification of social values when they communicate with family members according to gender (p
= 0.035), age (p
= 0.048), and academic year (0.041). Aspects that contrast with another study, in which the importance of the use of technologies and social networks, and the presence of social values among young people when communicating with peers, was seen [77
]. In short, some facts that stand out from the study and according to the contrasted hypotheses is that most university students use the Internet and are able to identify social values and use them when communicating with classmates, friends, and family; although, certain differences when considering the variables studied and analyzed (gender, age, and academic year) must be taken into account.
Following the results of the study presented, as well as other cited and contrasted research, it is important to educate young people to be responsible when using the Internet and, in particular, when communicating through social networks, as stated by Martínez Ten [78
] in a guide for teachers that aims to promote the ethical and responsible use of social networks. Encouraging the use of the Internet and social networks in the university environment [79
], promotes an increase in student motivation, cooperation, collaboration and group cohesion, responsibility, independence, dialogue, communication, critical thinking, and the freedom to organize and develop work, favoring positive attitudes, specific skills, and values among students. This study is also relevant to identify how young people perceive the presence of values on the Internet, especially since “the change in the values of society is indicative of the change in the social structure” [80
] (p. 3). Developing university teaching practices in which values, attitudes, and competencies are promoted, is necessary to support adequate self-esteem among young people. This is to say, to improve social and communicative skills that allow them to solve their problems, manage their emotions, and develop protective factors against the risks that social networks and the Internet may pose [81