2010 Future of News and Civic Media Conference Barcamp: Kids these days
June 17, 2010
Proposed by: Christina Xu
Participant(s): Leo Burd, Danielle Martin, Josh Stearns

We envisioned the session from two different view points - older college youth who are using tools like Twitter, Facebook, and mobile applications, and younger youth in under- and un-served communities that might or might not be. We originally envisioned the barcamp to be from both sides, and then explain that we ended up having to do an on-the-fly mashup; we quickly realized that we were defining youth differently and we needed to be clear about our lenses in order to talk about the most applicable tools and/or practices

At first, we realized we must be aware of our assumptions - with youth, news comes from all sorts of channels; classic newspaper might be one, but Twitter has become more flexible tool and gives direct access to most relevant sources

We also realized we need to define what you mean by youth, then ask if tools, like Twitter, apply for all?

Here's some other interesting points that came up in further conversation:
  • Focusing on the platform is very old-school. Kids these days have a wide variety of options available to them and they hop from one to the other based on convenience and always changing social conventions.
  • Best to give them high-level instructions than enforce one platform over the other.
  • Many of the platforms we (organizers, technologists, etc.) think of as tools for disseminating information are certainly that, but for
  • many youth who use these technologies socially they are also sites of self-expression, identity formation/performance. Take this into account when thinking about your social media projects.
  • Getting news on Twitter or other social media is really kind of a return to roots: word-of-mouth info transmission rather than top-down distribution. You can get info you care about straight from the horse's mouth, and the best bits of info are disseminated the most.

  • Defining "youth" means not only age and development level, but also class, race, and privilege; it varies greatly across nations and context
  • Young digital natives (ages 17-24), especially those in college, are using Twitter and other social media as alternative sources of news because who they consider "authority" and "relevant" are more socially and pop-culture based

  • When we approach working with youth in instances of inclusion and digital divide, we should first approach designing or adapting technology solutions, we should start by defining what communication/information needs and habits exist and build upon them…so ask:

  • What are the information needs of children?
  • Then, what kinds of tools help fulfill kids needs and desires?

  • Media literacy, especially around internet safety and integrity of new sources, should be integrated and seemless in everyday education
  • With youth, we can't assume, just because social media seems to pervasive, that meaning is the same for everyone; for instance, with Twitter, is it good for all youth? Depends on age group:
  • age groups
  • local culture
  • infrastructure
  • economic factors

  • With younger children, any curriculum or program needs to take into account existing technology literacy & skills BUT adoption is exponentially quicker with youth
  • Go where the youth are at instead of building a new platform (aka got to Facebook or Orkut) and learn from how they are innovating within those spaces