issue 4, year 2
The Youth corner
How can adults best support young people’s engagement in society today?
A Commentary on the Webinar "Can the voice of children and young people be heard in public life?"
Based on a discussion within the webinar series of the Institute of Social Studies at the University of Tartu, led by Kadri Ugur (PhD), a lecturer of interpersonal and educational communication (May 2, 2017)
CEO of the Foundation for Science and Liberal Arts Domus Dorpatensis
Young people’s steps and attempts, although sometimes small, towards engagement and participation in societal issues should not be overlooked, but rather acknowledged and encouraged. Here it does not matter whether they engage themselves with online or offline actions or a mixture of both.
In my opinion, one should not focus solely or primarily on the activities taking place in a physical and more traditional form. Moreover, adults should avoid scolding or judging young people for using digital devices for communication purposes and telling them to “go outside, get some fresh air and do something “real” instead of sitting in front of a computer”.
Such an attitude may give youth a misleading message of digital participation as less “real” or less of a commitment; making it to something play-like and therefore unwittingly encouraging reckless or even extreme behaviour online. At the same time, it is understandable that communicating and discussing political issues, among other things, on sites like Reddit, 4chan, Instagram, Snapchat, etc., may remain somewhat unnoticeable or remote for those (adult) people who do not use these online platforms. And sometimes, as I have found, youth themselves do not define those discussions as political in this first sense of the word. Nevertheless, one could claim that both adult and youth’s activities taking place online have actually outpaced more traditional forms of civic engagement by now, as we have witnessed in the cases of the Brexit campaign or the US presidential elections of 2016.
My conclusion is that young people are involved and participate in many different ways: through volunteering, projects and events, public and political circles; and a growing part of that is happening via the internet. It is time to acknowledge the move to digital participation as “real” and “appropriate” way of participating and keeping up with what is going on in society as well as in the world.
CATCH-EyoU has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Grant Agreement n. 649538