Youth Voice on the Internet

Research shows youth are using the Internet more than ever right now. Based on almost 20 years experience, the Freechild Institute is interested is exploring the reality that this usage is complex and sophisticated, and shares youth voice in nearly countless ways. This article explores how youth voice is happening on the Internet, where it is happening and why it is happening.


Four Factors

The graphic above includes four different factors I believe are important when we examine youth voice on the internet. These factors are:

  1. Expressions of Youth Voice on the Internet
  2. Aspects of Youth Voice Online
  3. Types of Youth Voice on the Internet
  4. A Continuum of Youth Voice Online

The following sections explore these four factors.

1: Expressions of Youth Voice on the Internet

Expressions of Youth Voice on the Internet
This graphic illustrates expressions of youth voice online.

In my early writing, I explored how youth voice is best defined as any expression of any young person anywhere, about anything, any time, in any way for any reason at all. This definition reflects the wide-ranging intentions, forms and outcomes of youth voice. It is meant to deny the necessity of adults in youth voice, and instead affirms the most authentic forms of youth voice. Young people do not need adult permission, activities or acceptance to share youth voice; it is already shared wherever youth are all of the time. The question isn’t whether youth are sharing their voices; its whether adults are willing and able to hear what is being said.

All of that said, it is important to expand on what and how adults think youth voice is shared. When I listen to youth voice in my projects, research and home, I look for the following directly from youth themselves:

  • Thoughts
  • Ideas
  • Attitudes
  • Knowledge
  • Tone
  • Feelings
  • Beliefs
  • Opinions
  • Ideas
  • Wisdom
  • Moods

That’s not a complete list of different expressions of youth voice, either. However, it can begin to alert adults to the various ways young people make themselves hear on the internet already. Learn more ways youth voice is expressed elsewhere here »

2: Aspects of Youth Voice Online

Online Youth Voice Aspects
This graphic illustrates two aspects of youth voice on the Internet.

Since youth voice can be expressed in virtually countless ways online, I believe it is vital to examine different aspects of these expressions. One way is by observing the ways youth voice online is private, and the ways youth voice online is public. The difference between these two can be seen like this:

Private Youth Voice can be transient, fluctuating, isolated, direct and immediate. In different types of private youth voice, the expressions of young people can appear and disappear quickly; they are targeted towards certain people, frequently their peers; and they are often intimate, personal and emotional, whether funny, depressing, angry or just blah. It is most often shared alone, between just two people, or within a small group of people. Private youth voice fluctuates and reveals the differentiating nature of young people, changing according to their increasing knowledge, skills and abilities. Finally, its immediate and sudden, often reflecting reflective thinking and critical analysis, but also showing whit, style and perception at the same time.

Public Youth Voice can be more permanent, steady, expansive, indirect and gradual. When young people are talking with adults in large group settings, working together with their peers to lead movements or make large-scale statements, building online strategies and creating massive social change, they are sharing public youth voice. Public youth voice typifies young people because it can seem like these expressions freeze young peoples’s voices in a single place and time, making it appear as a steady, regular phenomenon. With countless issues it can be expressed towards, public youth voice can seem very broad too, and with its apparent permanency public youth voice can seem to make a gradual appearance, as if it comes from a logical, intentional and strategic place.

3: Types of Youth Voice on the Internet

Youth voice activities on the Internet
This graphic illustrates different youth voice activities on the Internet.

The Internet provides a unique avenue for youth voice because it is public and private at the same time.

When youth share different types of youth voice online, they are often hyper-conscious of these different aspects. For instance, in the traditional types of youth voice on the internet, young people create public artifacts for the masses to consume on the web. This includes commenting, web design, blogging, video-making, and conference calls. These are all static ways the Internet has been used for a long time, if not throughout its entire existence.

In current types of youth voice, the internet is used in private ways, including emails, private chat, texting and messaging. These are all transient ways that can and often do completely disappear after they are consumed. Examples of this technology include TikTokSnapchatiMessagesDiscord and much, much more.

Along with several other ways, social media, gaming and hashtags can represent both private (transient) and public (static) types of youth voice online.

Learn about different ways youth voice is shared »

4: A Continuum of Youth Voice Online

Continuum of Youth Voice Online
This graphic illustrates a continuum of youth voice online.

Understanding why youth express themselves online isn’t rocket science, but isn’t always clear, either. It can be useful to understand all youth voice online through the lenses of the “3 C” continuum: Creation, Consumption and Criticism. These three C’s can help us listen to youth voice on the Internet more effectively:

  • Are youth creating the Internet by producing content and communicating, including chatting, blogging, creating websites, PDFs, infographics, photos, videos, etc.?
  • Are youth consuming the Internet by reading, buying, watching, listening, playing, and otherwise intaking different content already produced on the Internet?
  • Are youth criticizing the Internet and its content with critical thinking and interacting with other web users through conversation, commenting, recreating and remixing the Internet and its content?

Summary

When considering these factors, it’s important to understand that youth voice is never simply one thing for all youth, everywhere, all the time—not simply online, but also at homethroughout the community, and far beyond!

Instead, this article is meant to show youth voice on the internet as a broad, dynamic and constantly shifting reality. It can be an avenue for democratic engagement and culture building, as well as critical pedagogy and social justice. However, it can just as easily be weaponized to implement fascism and enforce the will of tyrants.

Do you have a favorite type of youth voice online? What are your questions, comments or concerns about this article? Please share your thoughts, ideas and responses in the comments!


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Every Youth A Leader

The room was packed, like so many conference sessions I’ve facilitated. Folks had come from all corners to attend this international meeting, and they came to this session called “Every Youth A Leader”. In the conference session description, I’d written the following:

“In their homes, schools, communities, and throughout society, children and youth are leading the world right now. There are many adults who don’t see all young people as leaders right now, and this workshop is designed for adults who work with those resisters.”

Introducing the workshop, I shared the four principles of youth leadership today:

  1. Every youth is a leader, whether or not adults recognize that makes a difference.
  2. Fostering youth leadership starts at home, extends into school and throughout the community, and in a reciprocal loop from adults to youth and youth to adults.
  3. Everyone benefits from youth leadership, even if they don’t recognize it.
  4. Learning about youth leadership is essential to engaging youth as leaders.

Participants then talked about each point. They talked about whether they agree or disagree with it, and they discussed whether they’d seen it in action.

When people don’t disagree with me, I think they’re too comfortable. Luckily, the very first principle drew objections.

“Every kid isn’t capable of being a leader.”
“I know too many youth who just don’t want to be leaders.”
“MY youth aren’t leaders, that’s for sure.”

So many cynical, jaded and frustrated youth workers, social workers and others responded these ways and others. Working through interpreters, I replied to some of their comments and let others respond, too. Then, the conversation became robust!

Sometimes, the best conversations come from conflict, including the idea that EVERY youth can be a leader!

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Find in a library : the freechild project guide to youth-driven programming

Citation Styles for “The Freechild Project Guide to Youth-Driven Programming”

APA (6th ed.)

  • Fletcher, A. (2013). The freechild project guide to youth-driven programming. Olympia, WA: CommonAction Publishing.

Chicago (Author-Date, 15th ed.)

  • Fletcher, A. 2013. The freechild project guide to youth-driven programming. Olympia, WA: CommonAction Publishing.

Harvard (18th ed.)

  • FLETCHER, A. (2013). The freechild project guide to youth-driven programming. Olympia, WA: CommonAction Publishing.

MLA (7th ed.)

  • Fletcher, Adam.The Freechild Project Guide to Youth-Driven Programming. Olympia, Wa: CommonAction Publishing, 2013. Print.

Turabian (6th ed.)

  • Fletcher, Adam. The Freechild Project Guide to Youth-Driven Programming. Olympia, Wa: CommonAction Publishing, 2013.

 

Learn more about these citation styles: APA (6th ed.) | Chicago (Author-Date, 15th ed.) | Harvard (18th ed.) | MLA (7th ed.) | Turabian (6th ed.)

Note: Citations are based on reference standards. However, formatting rules can vary widely between applications and fields of interest or study. The specific requirements or preferences of your reviewing publisher, classroom teacher, institution or organization should be applied.

Caution: Some text formatting within citations may be lost or altered when copied into word processing programs or Web-based applications such as e-mail services.

Find in a library : the practice of youth engagement

Citation Styles for “The Practice of Youth Engagement”

APA (6th ed.)

  • Fletcher, A. (2014). The practice of youth engagement. Olympia, WA: CommonAction Publishing.

Chicago (Author-Date, 15th ed.)

  • Fletcher, A. 2014. The practice of youth engagement. Olympia, WA: CommonAction Publishing.

Harvard (18th ed.)

  • FLETCHER, A. (2014). The practice of youth engagement. Olympia, WA: CommonAction Publishing.

MLA (7th ed.)

  • Fletcher, Adam. The Practice of Youth Engagement. Olympia, Wa: CommonAction Publishing, 2014. Print.

Turabian (6th ed.)

  • Fletcher, Adam. The Practice of Youth Engagement. Olympia, Wa: CommonAction Publishing, 2014.

 

Learn more about these citation styles: APA (6th ed.) | Chicago (Author-Date, 15th ed.) | Harvard (18th ed.) | MLA (7th ed.) | Turabian (6th ed.)

Note: Citations are based on reference standards. However, formatting rules can vary widely between applications and fields of interest or study. The specific requirements or preferences of your reviewing publisher, classroom teacher, institution or organization should be applied.

Caution: Some text formatting within citations may be lost or altered when copied into word processing programs or Web-based applications such as e-mail services.

Find in a library : facing adultism

Citation Styles for “Facing Adultism”

APA (6th ed.)

  • Fletcher, A. (2015). Facing adultism. Olympia, WA: CommonAction Publishing.

Chicago (Author-Date, 15th ed.)

  • Fletcher, A. 2015. Facing adultism. Olympia, WA: CommonAction Publishing.

Harvard (18th ed.)

  • FLETCHER, A. (2015). Facing adultism. Olympia, WA: CommonAction Publishing.

MLA (7th ed.)

  • Fletcher, Adam. Facing Adultism. Olympia, Wa: CommonAction Publishing, 2015. Print.

Turabian (6th ed.)

  • Fletcher, Adam. Facing Adultism. Olympia, Wa: CommonAction Publishing, 2015.

 

Learn more about these citation styles: APA (6th ed.) | Chicago (Author-Date, 15th ed.) | Harvard (18th ed.) | MLA (7th ed.) | Turabian (6th ed.)

Note: Citations are based on reference standards. However, formatting rules can vary widely between applications and fields of interest or study. The specific requirements or preferences of your reviewing publisher, classroom teacher, institution or organization should be applied.

Caution: Some text formatting within citations may be lost or altered when copied into word processing programs or Web-based applications such as e-mail services.

Find in a library : soundout student voice curriculum

Citation Styles for “SoundOut Student Voice Curriculum”

APA (6th ed.)

  • Fletcher, A. (2013). Soundout student voice curriculum. Olympia, WA: CommonAction Publishing.

Chicago (Author-Date, 15th ed.)

  • Fletcher, A. 2013. Soundout student voice curriculum. Olympia, WA: CommonAction Publishing.

Harvard (18th ed.)

  • FLETCHER, A. (2013). Soundout student voice curriculum. Olympia, WA: CommonAction Publishing.

MLA (7th ed.)

  • Fletcher, Adam. SoundOut Student Voice Curriculum. Olympia, Wa: CommonAction Publishing, 2013. Print.

Turabian (6th ed.)

  • Fletcher, Adam. SoundOut Student Voice Curriculum. Olympia, Wa: CommonAction Publishing, 2013.

 

Learn more about these citation styles: APA (6th ed.) | Chicago (Author-Date, 15th ed.) | Harvard (18th ed.) | MLA (7th ed.) | Turabian (6th ed.)

Note: Citations are based on reference standards. However, formatting rules can vary widely between applications and fields of interest or study. The specific requirements or preferences of your reviewing publisher, classroom teacher, institution or organization should be applied.

Caution: Some text formatting within citations may be lost or altered when copied into word processing programs or Web-based applications such as e-mail services.

Find in a library : the guide to student voice

Citation Styles for “The Guide to Student Voice”

APA (6th ed.)

  • Fletcher, A. (2014). The guide to student voice. Olympia, WA: CommonAction Publishing.

Chicago (Author-Date, 15th ed.)

  • Fletcher, A. 2014. The guide to student voice. Olympia, WA: CommonAction Publishing.

Harvard (18th ed.)

  • FLETCHER, A. (2014). The guide to student voice. Olympia, WA: CommonAction Publishing.

MLA (7th ed.)

  • Fletcher, Adam. The Guide to Student Voice. Olympia, Wa: CommonAction Publishing, 2014. Print.

Turabian (6th ed.)

  • Fletcher, Adam. The Guide to Student Voice. Olympia, Wa: CommonAction Publishing, 2014.

 

Learn more about these citation styles: APA (6th ed.) | Chicago (Author-Date, 15th ed.) | Harvard (18th ed.) | MLA (7th ed.) | Turabian (6th ed.)

Note: Citations are based on reference standards. However, formatting rules can vary widely between applications and fields of interest or study. The specific requirements or preferences of your reviewing publisher, classroom teacher, institution or organization should be applied.

Caution: Some text formatting within citations may be lost or altered when copied into word processing programs or Web-based applications such as e-mail services.

Find in a library : student voice revolution : the meaningful student involvement handbook

Citation Styles for “Student Voice Revolution: The Meaningful Student Involvement Handbook”

APA (6th ed.)

  • Fletcher, A. (2017). Student voice revolution: The meaningful student involvement handbook. Olympia, WA: CommonAction Publishing.

Chicago (Author-Date, 15th ed.)

  • Fletcher, A. 2017. Student voice revolution: The meaningful student involvement handbook. Olympia, WA: CommonAction Publishing.

Harvard (18th ed.)

  • FLETCHER, A. (2017). Student voice revolution: The meaningful student involvement handbook. Olympia, WA: CommonAction Publishing.

MLA (7th ed.)

  • Fletcher, Adam. Student Voice Revolution: The Meaningful Student Involvement Handbook. Olympia, Wa: CommonAction Publishing, 2017. Print.

Turabian (6th ed.)

  • Fletcher, Adam. Student Voice Revolution: The Meaningful Student Involvement Handbook. Olympia, Wa: CommonAction Publishing, 2017.

 

Learn more about these citation styles: APA (6th ed.) | Chicago (Author-Date, 15th ed.) | Harvard (18th ed.) | MLA (7th ed.) | Turabian (6th ed.)

Note: Citations are based on reference standards. However, formatting rules can vary widely between applications and fields of interest or study. The specific requirements or preferences of your reviewing publisher, classroom teacher, institution or organization should be applied.

Caution: Some text formatting within citations may be lost or altered when copied into word processing programs or Web-based applications such as e-mail services.

Are YOU Making Adultism Okay?

In nonprofits today, there is attention paid towards racial, gender, and other forms of discrimination. However, little is made of a very real form of discrimination that is undermining a lot of well-meaning social justice activists’ work today: adultism.

In my new book, Ending Discrimination Against Young People, I define adultism in three ways:

  • Bias towards adults;
  • Discrimination against children and youth;
  • The addiction to adults expressed throughout our culture, society, and personal ways of being.

Adultism occurs throughout education, including K-12 schools, government agencies and policy-making, and many other places that intersect with education – even democratic education!

Despite our best intentions, many adults and students try to make discrimination against young people okay in all kinds of ways. Following are some of them.

15 Ways Adults Try to Make Adultism Okay

  1. Denying discrimination against children and youth. Adults might say: “This is a free country, and kids can do whatever they want if they put their minds to it,” or “Hey, wait a second, that’s not what I meant… I mean… you took my words out of context, don’t make it try to sound like I’m adultist!” They may also claim that young people being able to talk about adultism makes the adults non-adultist.
  2. Telling young people they are too sensitive. Adults might say, ”You’re too sensitive,” or, “If youth weren’t so aggressive, vocal, hostile, angry, or upset, adults would listen to youth and they wouldn’t get in trouble!”
  3. Speaking for children and youth. Adults might say, “I’m a youth ally myself, so why can’t we all just ignore age, it’s not like it’s even real. It is not as if I tangibly benefit from being an adult every day or anything! Can’t we all just get along?”
  4. Turning the tables. Adults might say, “You are just discriminating against adults, you know. You’re discriminating against me right now, you hypocrite!”
  5. Denying reality. Adults might say, ”Whoa, that guy over there is SUCH an adultist, unlike me… I know exactly the right things to say and I’m never adultist. By which I mean overtly offensive about it. Hold on, I think I’m going to go spit on that adult. I hate him.”
  6. Bending over backwards. Adults might say, ”You kids are so right! I agree with everything you say, because you’re right, of course
  7. Reinforcing adultism with personal reasons. Adults might say, ”But a youth cut in front of me in line at the grocery store last night, said something stupid, mugged me, or took my hubcaps! So as far as I’m concerned, they proved all of my prejudices!”
  8. Taking on adultism. Adults might say, ”I can’t possibly be an adultist… I’m part of the oppressed due to the fact that I’m a woman! (or gay, poor, young, transsexual, etc.)”.
  9. Trying to be a youth. Adults might say, “Dang, dude! I listen to emo and rock out at the shows, and you know I’m down with the homies. Did you see the last edition of that graphic novel?”
  10. Being constantly available to youth. Adults might say, ”Teach me, help me. I’m just an adult, so I need your wisdom as a youth to show me how not to be adultist. Wait, is what I said earlier adultist? How about this shirt I’m wearing? Can you come with me to this meeting, so they know I’m not adultist?”
  11. Rationalizing adultism through faux-empathy. Adults might say, “Unlike all those other adults out there, I’m an anti-adultist.” “I do anti-adultist work and I try to educate other adults about adultism.” “Wait, did you hear me?”
  12. Switching sides. Adults might say, ”I totally agree. Adultism is one system of oppression among many interlocking ones that specifically awards more privilege and power to all adults whether they like it or not and serves to keep the existing power structure in place. Oh… what? You want me to volunteer in a community organization, contribute money, do security for your protest march? Uh… yeah maybe next time, I’ve got to wash my hair tonight. And walk my dog, see the latest episode of my favorite show, manage my stock portfolio…”
  13. Sympathy for youth. Adults might say,”Oh my god… that is so awful. I’m so sorry. Sorry. I can’t imagine what it must be like… I’m sorry. That’s so awful. I feel so bad for you. Sorry.”
  14. Being a friend by force. Adults might say, “Hey, I’m not an adultist, OK? Some of my best friends are youth. See?” or “Yeah, I’ve known her since I was a kid, and she’s never said anything adultist to me!”
  15. Hiding behind their age. Youth might say, ”What? I can’t possibly be adultist – I AM a youth. How can I be adultist against myself, huh? No, I haven’t heard of internalized adultism, and I still think youth involvement is reverse discrimination!”

All of these things actually discriminate against young people by favoring adults over young people. Identifying how you personally rationalize adultism can lead to becoming a more effective adult ally. All adults are adultist, and most young people are too.

To learn more about adultism, check out my book Facing Adultism. Full of examples and actions, I intend for educators, youth workers, parents, and others to step up and change the ways they interact with young people. Read the book to learn more!

Getting Creative

In everyone’s life, there’s a time and place to engage other people, and to engage themselves. Now, that could be anytime and any place! The ultimate learning is the essential understanding of how these sustained connections happen.

CommonAction has been teaching these understandings for more than a decade. We have a number of tools, lessons and activities that can help young people and adults come to these understandings for themselves.

To find any of our tools, search this site, and contact us today to talk about what we can do for you!