Joe Kahne – Digital Evolution: Social Media’s Growing Impact on Youth Political Engagement

November 06, 2012
11:00 am - 12:00 pm PST
By Educator Innovator

How is digital media changing the ways youth engage politically (and civically), on a national level?

Key Questions and Comments:

  • (07:40) There’s a lot of dialogue out there that young people are getting really involved in online forms of activism, and that gets in the way of participation in the Election. Young people may Tweet about politics, but will they bother to vote?
  • (10:25) 45% of young people said they had gotten news at least once a week from their friends or family via Facebook or Twitter. That’s basically the same percentage of people who said they got news by reading magazines or newspapers.
  • (15:40) For us, [digital citizenship] has to do with not only being able to read the visual language, but also…being able to have different opinions and share them in a respectful manner. And exchange, and change your opinions, and grow from that.
  • (23:59) The people who are most active in social media, no matter what their age, are also more likely to be active in their communities, be civically minded, offer–and get–social support from their friends.
  • (29:02) [Youth are] creating their own networks to solve problems. They’re creating their own groups to address issues that they don’t think others are addressing well enough for them…This networked environment is allowing people, essentially, to form activist groups on the fly.
  • (30:50) Last year, I was involved in a civic engagement startup. [We wanted to address] an issue that we thought was happening in the Harvard community, but also the nation as a whole: there was a sort of increasing gap between the interests of ordinary citizens and the interests of politicians and policymakers.
  • (32:25) What evidence do we have that under-18 youth are influencing national-level politics?
  • (37:00) Look at the KONY 2012 video. Whatever you think of the virtues of that video, it was driven into the national–and even global–conversation by young people talking about it in social media, and convincing gatekeepers of the culture (like Oprah Winfrey and Ryan Seacrest) to talk about it.
  • (40:27) Schools will continue to play a vital role in preparing students to be citizens, but educators must be prepared to play by different rules. Being civically involved and civically engaged is a very different thing to be involved in than it was, even just a few years ago.
  • (46:50) I wonder if one solution to this problem is that we can empower youth leadership to be information curators?
  • (47:34) “It is easier than ever to find people who agree with you, and to shut out those who don’t.” What is that an indicator of? Is that a true thing, and what do we do about that?
  • (51:36) It’s not that we need everyone to be a political junkie. But, in a democracy, where everybody’s voice matters, you really want everybody to have some exposure and some engagement.
  • (60:42) The dynamics of politics are shifting, and the digital media is a big part of that. It’s not an online world versus an offline world–it’s an integrated whole.

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During the broadcast, the conversation also took place on Twitter using the hashtag #connectedlearning.

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