For more than 20 years, Freechild has supported youth-serving organizations in establishing, empowering and transforming youth involvement programs. This article highlights the five steps we share to do that.
Nike, Levi’s, and a lot of other brands that sell things to youth have realized that the secret to marketing to youth is personalization: Let them help design it, and young people will spend a lot for it. At the same time, many websites allow young users to develop sophisticated personal profiles, letting them connect their friends, identify with organizations and causes they want to be affiliated with, and personalize the look and operation of the website to suit their personal tastes. According to an expose by CBS News, “In 1983, companies spent $100 million marketing to kids. Today, they’re spending nearly $17 billion annually. That’s more than double what it was in 1992.”
In the face of this, youth routinely experience the rest of society being done to them and for them, instead of with them or by themselves.
Freechild believes that children and youth are not the consumers of their lives. However, it is clear that marketers (again) have one up on all adults who work with young people.
Rather than following their direct lead though, there are lessons we can learn from them. Here are 5 steps to youth involvement.
5 Steps to Foster Youth Involvement
1) Educate yourself first. Recognize that all young people are segregated everywhere, all the time. I wrote a series of articles for our Facing Adultism Toolkit that can teach you before you work to build youth involvement in your organization or community.
2) See all young people. In the history of children in the US, a lot of it focuses on the suffering of young children. But a few historians actually acknowledge that even young children have always been important to the well-being of the United States. That’s even more true today than ever before.
3) Invest in your own development. You don’t have to spend money on advertisements or developing apps. Instead, invest in time by attending trainings, conducting social media activities, and taking deliberate actions to integrate young people throughout your community. Find out what Freechild can do with your organization or community.
4) Strengthen youth involvement. If you want young people to be involved, you can integrate them throughout any part of your community. That includes planning, research, facilitation, training, evaluation, decision-making, and advocacy. Learn how to do all this and more from our Youth Involvement Toolkit.
5) Everywhere, all the time. When businesses want to sell things to young people, they ingratiate themselves throughout the lives of children and youth, in their clothing, video games, and other places. We must take according steps without overspending on technology or t-shirts by taking steps to involve youth throughout their communities. Learn about Hampton, Virginia for a great example of what this looks like.
There are many other steps to take, but integrating youth is an essential responsibility we should all take on. These are some ways to do that.