A to study through Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tisch College (CIRCLE) examined how adolescents under the voting age engage in social media in a way that encourages political engagement and activism. The survey, conducted from September to November 2020 and published in October 2021, found that adolescents who engage in media creation on social and political issues feel politically informed and empowered to engage in political conversations.
The study was conducted by Abby Kiesa, Deputy Director of CIRCLE; Madeline McGee, a member of Diversified Democracy with CIRCLE; and Sara Suzuki, a postdoctoral researcher with CIRCLE. A total of 1,847 adolescents in the United States aged 14 to 17 were interviewed between September and November 2020. They were asked about their online activity, their engagement in online social and political activism and their experiences with media education in and outside school.
The study found that nearly 45% of adolescents surveyed engaged in at least one of the three forms of media creation or sharing on the subject of social or political issues, including submitting content about politics or social issues to a website or media platform, creating a visual to raise awareness about a social or political issue, or sharing an online experience to raise awareness .
Ruby Belle Booth, research assistant at CIRCLE, discussed how teens engage in politics and online activism.
“Teens specifically get a ton of information about politics online,” said Booth. “More teens said they saw information about the 2020 election on these platforms than they heard from family and friends or at school. “
The investigation also revealed that 82% of adolescents who created media in the last month said they felt better informed about politics and 80% said their voice was louder as a result.
McGee explained how media creation translates into other forms of political participation among adolescents.
“Online engagement translates into offline engagement, and young people who participate in some of these conversations in online spaces are actually more likely to participate in [what] some people might call “more real” forms of civic participation “, McGee said.
Kiesa stressed the importance encourage adolescents under the age of voting to become civically engaged and explained why CIRCLE chose to study this demographics.
“These building blocks of civic engagement are built over time and are not magically assigned to someone when they turn 18.” Kiesa wrote in an email to The Daily. “It is essential to start earlier because… if we don’t, we will probably have a hard time reducing existing inequalities in political voice and power. “
The survey results also highlighted economic and socio-cultural inequalities that can impact how adolescents engage with social and political media online.
“There are many disparities in media education and these opportunities are not evenly distributed across schools and geographies, and they also exist along racial and educational lines.” McGee said.
A previous CIRCLE study found that 37% of young people do not feel qualified to share their political opinions online, a feeling that is disproportionately felt by white women and men of color.
“Whoever is told that their voice counts in these spaces is important”, said Booth. “It’s not only what teachers and the media put on different racial or gender identities, but it’s also what people perceive as a threat from their groups of friends and social spheres. , and this is evidenced in the conclusion on anxiety to post due to social pressure. . “
McGee stressed the importance integrate media education into school curricula.
“We are thinking of [media literacy] such as the ability to responsibly access, assess and analyze and create media ”, McGee said. “Just over half of the students who responded had received media literacy training in schools, with most claiming to have learned the differences between fact and fiction online, how to create things like digital graphics, how to create their own media.
By bringing media literacy into the classroom, CIRCLE researchers believe teens will be better able to engage with politically and socially active content they find online and even create their own.
“The nice thing about implementing media literacy and media creation in the classroom is that it creates forays for different students who have different interests. “ said Booth. “It creates all of these different opportunities for young people to find their own interests and the things they’re good at, and the things they want to do, and nurture those interests and maybe that will go out of the room.” class. “
Booth also noted an interesting and unexpected fact. The investigation revealed that 25% of the adolescents surveyed had heard of or worked with a local media or media in their community, and 41% of teens said they haven’t done it but would like to.
“There is this narrative that young people don’t read or watch the news, especially local news, and we found that to be not quite true.” Booth said. “There are a lot of young people who are interested in working with local news and local media to produce more content or just to find out more about the process.”
One of the conclusions of the study was that adolescents who create media that deal with social or political issues not only have more confidence in their political voice, but are also more civically engaged.
“When you find yourself in a situation where you have the power to recognize the power of your own voice and to feel more informed about public issues and to participate in some of these civic conversations, it is really a starting point for all kinds of civic participation. “ McGee said.