When something acquires power and influence in society, the most important thing is to use this power wisely. Why do we need to be educated about digital activism within our universities or high schools?

Like a fish in the sea

There is no question that social media has become a necessary tool for organizations’ online communication. Just look at your daily routine that involves photo posting, emotional expression and sharing news within social networking platforms. This is a way professional networks and trends are born nowadays. What makes this communication innovations unique  is the fact that adults admit that youth has a prime position here.
Young people have advantages in usage of technology and the internet as a mean – many of us have grown up using various technologies at home and at school, we are aware of how to use social media in our interest and the Internet is new or intimidating for us. For modern youth the use of many types of digital media in everyday life has become basics of  daily lives.
The development of the Internet and online communication allowed to appear opportunities to pose yourself politically interested without the usual attributes like going out to street rallies and participation in political meetings.

A leading power

This state of affairs also affected how political events can be organized, recited, and involved as many as possible like-minded people and allies. Every day there are some spontaneous movements on a variety of occasions. It has become a part of our daily routine. These often bypass the existing world of politics, social movements and campaigning. Today it’s fashionable to be digital active.

Given the large flow of information and the erasure of any boundaries in the online space, users, that is, mostly young people, begin to feel their involvement in events and problems around the world. Being not indifferent, they try to find a way to take action. And this is a turning point, when their emotions should be directed in the right direction. Therefore, instead of limiting education to a conservative approach, it might be more efficient to reach youth in the environments in which they are already engaged, namely online. To understand youth digital literacy one should firstly determine the ways in which youth communication is interacting with new technologies.

Digital activism is usually nonviolent and tends to work best when social media tools are combined with street-level organization, according to new research from the University of Washington.

In the news we hear of online activism that involves anonymous or cyberterrorist hackers who cause trouble and break into systems. But that was 2 or 3 percent of all the cases — far and away, most of the cases are average folks with a modest policy agenda” that doesn’t involve hacking or covert crime. – Philip Howard, runner of Digital Activism Research Project.

Slacktivism

Digital action, or “Slacktivism” as it’s sometimes called, has its opponents. More often than not, people criticize this movement for its alleged superficiality. It’s like an easy way, when you do not need to go anywhere, but at the same time you seemed to take part in the fight. The most common cliche is that such activism is considered useless and inefficient, unlike real street rallies or other offline activities.

This stereotype even inspired the creators of the sketch comedy show Portlandia. They skewered the practice, invoking the notion that slactivists fail to practice what they preach. Prejudice against real and online activists ( that Malcolm Gladwell in 2010 called ‘small change’) diminishes the strengths and capabilities of digital devices in terms of organizing the movement and a circle of like-minded people.

In particular, many believe that the so-called slacktivism requires a minimum of commitment. You do not have to go out on the streets and fight for hours, you need only one click to show your indifference by posting a post on social networks or by signing an online petition. This activity is also called clicktivism, emphasizing that these actions are only a consolation and a way to amuse self-esteem and create the appearance of indifference without the possibility of really changing something.

In addition, because on the Internet there is a certain freedom of information dissemination and retrieval, there is always a possibility of being deceived or misled by unexamined content or incorrect interpretations. This also applies to responding to someone else’s actions in the online space. Who among us has not met trolls or overly ardent defenders in the comments?

However, despite the validity of the criticism, opponents of slacktivism are unaware that digital activism is a way to show indifference for those who can not allocate time for street boycotts and participation in social actions or money for significant donations.

 

Digital media in the classroom? For sure!

School teachers better than anyone understand that the widespread use of digital media has seriously affected their students. Most often they emphasize the difficulties that have arisen in keeping attention and concentration of young people, but also, they can confirm that this development of technologies has beneficially influenced their general outlook and self-development, including their academic path and social commitment.

For example, the digital environment allows students to effortlessly find the answer to any question and at the same time train the skill to determine reliable information. In addition, numerous sites with online courses and other similar content make it possible to master new competencies and qualifications without leaving the house.

The results of research and polls speak in favor of the fact that digital media has become an essential part of our life. It turned out that the number of hours spent by young users on the media is comparable to the time spent by them in the school on a daily basis. We are online at least 6 hours a day all days of the week. Even full-time work takes less time.

Technology gives kids power that people their age have never had. Let’s help them use it wisely.” – Marc Prensky, an American writer who invented the terms ‘digital native’ and ‘digital immigrant’

That is why many teachers and professors began to implement digital features into the educational process in order to reach their students and simplify communication with them. It concerns not only the implementation of technical advices and interactive techniques, but also a critical approach to different digital content within the covered topics, especially economic and political ones. Since such exams as SAT or similar requires abilities to critically analyze given information and pieces of text or video clips, this innovation can be especially efficient.

The threat of “over-information”

Nevertheless, large amounts of information entail damaging consequences.

Students have been both helped and hurt by the instant access to information. Being able to ‘Google’ answers to questions provides much quicker access, but it also makes students less comfortable wrestling with uncertainty or curiosity.”

First of all, this affects the actions and beliefs of the youth of citizens. Today, young people, armed with ambiguous, very diverse information, are losing confidence in government structures, while elected authorities do not seem credible and capable of anything. According to a survey conducted by the Harvard Institute of Politics, the level of trust among American youth from 18 to 25 years old has fallen dramatically since 2010.

Wrong perceptions and misinformation

Despite the wide experience of using media, because of their small life experience, young people are not protected from disinformation, which is widespread in the world wide web. Based on this information, adolescents tend to misinterpret the situation and make false conclusions. This is due to the capabilities of the media can in a matter of hours entail a chain reaction.

That is why digital activism education can develop youth digital literacy and skills in fact-checking. Educators can teach students how to thoroughly examine the causes and correctly identify the link  between them and the consequences. Experinced adults can teach how to perform fact-checking. Is that what they firmly believe is true? Digital education is the responsible way to raise awareness among youth and prevent unjustified panic and digital revolution. Often the dissemination of false information is a deliberate and purposeful action. As a rule, this is done for propaganda. If teen activists are to be taken seriously, they must be accurate or they will discredit their cause.

In her TED talk , social commentator Sisonke Msimang describes how stories and news are often not enough to make people act. Knowing about injustice is often not enough to persuade people to do anything about it. However, creating opportunities for engagement in the digital space can become a bridgehead to encourage people to go from words to concrete actions.

From all of the above, we need to figure out one important idea. The development of digital activism is not a resistance to the ways to struggle and manifest one’s civil position that exist for many years. This should be perceived as an additional catalyst for the modern young generation and an auxiliary method to quickly and efficiently organize a disparate crowd of like-minded people from different geographical locations. We should be embracing the power of new technologies and using them for the greater good.

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