Youth Engagement in Censorship

Freechild Project youth program participants in Seattle

Changing the world isn’t necessary if you believe nothing is wrong. Censorship tries to control what people know by controlling how they learn about it. Adults often try to control how youth learn things, making youth engagement in censorship a key topic for social change. Changing the world by challenging censorship is a key to ensuring democracy in the future.

“Freedom of speech is not simply a freedom to think and say what you wish, but to speak for yourself, to speak from the heart, and to be accountable for your words.” — Ian McCallum, author of Ecological Intelligence: Rediscovering Ourselves in Nature

Ways Youth Engagement in Censorship Happens

Youth as Producers — Working to produce, create, develop, design, generate and promote knowledge, skills, ideas and wisdom is one of the most powerful things young people can do. Engaging with adults as allies can facilitate tool-sharing, while working only with other youth can foster great outcomes, too.

Web Access — When young people have the skills to defeat online censorship, they can overcome restrictions to their knowledge. Overriding Internet-blocking devices, creating workarounds for games and accessing age-specific content might give young people knowledge and skills previously kept for adults-only who had no specific reason for age-based blocking.

Voting Rights — Forcing children and youth to share societies created by adults for them without granting them the right to vote or represent their own interests can be seen as political censorship. In several towns, provinces and nations around the world, younger people are granted the right to vote in public elections. This confronts censorship by demonstrating a positive, empowering way young people can change the world through democracy.

Needs for Youth Engagement in Censorship

Education — Learning what censorship is, how it works, what it does and what the outcomes are is essential for fighting it. Children and youth should have opportunities to learn to critically read banned books and engage with other censored materials. Using those experiences, young people can learn how to challenge censorship through activism and other ways. Education can be a powerful tool for social change focused on censorship.

Youth/Adult Partnerships — Working in intentional relationships with adults can support young people in challenging censorship. Through youth/adult partnerships, youth can benefit from adults’ access, authority and advocacy, especially in places where those are rare for young people. Children and youth can teach adults their perspectives, share their knowledge and help adults understand how censorship is both expanding and being defeated all the time.

Opportunities — Activities, programs and organization designed to teach communities about censorship can provide opportunities for children and youth to learn and become engaged, too. Through organizing, advocacy and education, young people can become empowered and effective advocates for their own interests and rights, and help communities gain abilities, too.

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Other tools are out there, too – share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can support youth engagement in challenging censorship through your community or organization, contact us.

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