For many young adults, going away to university is the time they will have maintained their own household. The skills required to run a household include decision-making around data and device use which can have longstanding repercussions. Examples include decisions around borrowing and spending (generating credit scores), data sharing (e.g., using free services premised on the sale of data ‘fumes’) and data monitoring (e.g., monitoring of health and fitness metrics). Young adults do not come to these data and device practices cold: as children this generation featured in the digital literacy debates, often cast in the role of the “digital native.” Yet in childhood, their devices and data are monitored and in part controlled by responsibilised adults, regulated through parental controls and age-restriction functions at app-level, and managed by strictures about permitted daily screen-time, for example, at the parental-level. Reaching the age of majority and moving out of home signals the shift of the legal and social responsibility of avoidance of online harms from the shoulders of parents and onto the shoulders of young adults. The practices and worries around harm avoidance, however, must be transformed and transferred within families within wider practices of intimacies and care work.
To explore how this happens, this paper analyses discourses of adulthood, responsibility and ‘predictive time’ (Barassi, 2020) in connection to householding practices of young adults living apart from their parents or guardians for the first time. Within this, how young adults ‘separate’ from their parents or guardians in terms of removal of parental controls, deleting (or altering) of tracker apps, and discussions about online safety and data management within the family are focussed on. A focus on university students is theoretically rich from this perspective because of the ‘extended adolescence’ that university students sometimes feel, still protected from some responsibilities of adulthood.