Non-profits atwitter over Rickman's research on rural girls' use of social media
Aimee Rickman, a Ph.D. student in human and community development and a research assistant for CSL Professor Christian Sandvig, has a long list of honors and awards for the work she has done studying the social construction of adolescence. Now she can add two new honors to that list: a 2012-13 fellowship from the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities (IPRH) and the Sadker Dissertation Award from the Myra Sadker Foundation.
“I’m thrilled, I’m so honored to be a part of both these groups,” Rickman said. Both the fellowship and the award will help Rickman develop her dissertation, which will examine how rural girls’ use of and involvement with social media effects their lives.
Rickman says that when girls are online, people often view them in one of two ways: either as people who are at risk and need protecting or as people who are out of control socially and cause problems. “But what they’re doing online often doesn’t fit into these two framings,” Rickman said. Through her research, Rickman has found that these girls have thought a lot about how to keep their personal information safe online and are not being reckless.
“They address the obstacles they have in their life” using the internet, Rickman said. Girls in rural areas often use social media to connect to other people when there is no other way to really connect to them.
“They’re doing some really meaningful things online that help them make sense of the world,” Rickman said. She also said that the internet is a very important part of these girls’ lives; it’s not just for entertainment.
Rickman has worked with girls for a number of years in several ways, including co-founding a community youth group, working for Women in Engineering, leading girls’ camps and establishing a science camp.
Her research focuses on two groups -- girls and rural youth -- that are understudied populations. Rickman studies girls between the ages of 13 and 22, although she says the boundaries of adolescence are vague. “I’m interested in how we frame this period of adolescence,” said Rickman, who noted that various cultures define adolescence differently, or don’t have a period of adolescence at all.
Rickman has studied other areas including online hostilities (often known as “cyber bullying”) and the effect that comment boards have on public opinion.
She has also given several presentations about her research. The most recent was on how rural girls’ use social media, which took place in Vancouver on March 8 at the Biannual Conference of the Society of Research on Adolescence. Her next presentation will take place May 19 in Urbana.