Youth Engagement in Media

Freechild Project adult ally teaching youth media making skills

Often portrayed as the passive subjects of media, young people are more than simply targets for media makers. Instead, children and youth today can be critical consumers of media; informed and wise subjects of media; and savvy, sophisticated producers of media. Youth engagement in the media is largely seen as tied together today because of the media’s influence, manipulation and interactions with public perception of young people, and the ability of youth to use media to their own ends.  This shows how children and youth can change the world with the media as a powerful tool.

The young, free to act on their initiative, can lead their elders in the direction of the unknown. The children, the young, must ask the questions that we would never think to ask, but enough trust must be re-established so that the elders will be permitted to work with them on the answers.— Margaret Mead

Ways Youth Engagement in the Media Happens

Youth Media Makers — Learning how to make print media (books, magazines, newspapers); create and direct visual media (television, movies, video games); create, produce and distribute music; manipulate cell phones and create various kinds of software; and design and program new usages of the Internet can be a powerful way for young people to change the world. All these youth-made media can be moved beyond being used for simple consumption towards being used for creation, critical thinking and empowerment.

Youth/Adult Partnerships — Through intentionally transparent, empowering relationships between young people and adults, media can become a powerful tool for social justice and against adultism. Youth/adult partnerships focused on media move both youth and adults towards empowerment and belonging through culture-building, education, critical thinking and action.

Critical Consumption — Developing the ability to think deliberately, effectively and purposefully about what we’re believing, reading, seeing, doing, experiencing and becoming is essential as we become well-rounded people. With media, it is important for everyone, young and older, to chose what they are influenced by.  intentionally based on predefined criteria, based on environmental sustainability, health and safety risks, animal welfare, fair trade, labour conditions, and human rights, etc.

"Only through actions do words take power." - Freechild Project motto

Needs for Youth Engagement in Media

Education — Learning how to identify, critically interact with, construct and share media with people can be a powerful way to engage young people in social change. Education focused on media can include consumption, production, examination, and advocacy. Young people and adults can also learn how media affects communities, children and youth, and society.

Inspiration — Pushing the boundaries, exposing the half-truths, examining the possibilities and rejecting mistruth are all important ways that youth can interact with media. Inspiration to do this can come in many ways, including through meaningful stories, personal examples and studying history. Children and youth should have inspiring, motivating messages and opportunities shared with them constantly, if only to combat the constantly bombardment of media in their lives.

Absence — Given the constant presence of media throughout the lives of young people, it is important to create spaces where children and youth can be free of the direct influence of media. These spaces should never be forced, instead inviting and motivating young people to enter on their own choice. Once there, non-media driven interactions and activities can be facilitated by other young people or adult allies of youth.

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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 the Arts in your community or organization, contact us.

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