Youth influences media vs. media influences youth: Take your pick.

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This past year I have been volunteering at an urban elementary school where my mom is currently a teacher. The school has many students that are outspoken, too social at the wrong times, and can be disrespectful to staff and other students. Although there are many students that are exceptional leaders in the school, some of them can be a handful especially when it comes to capturing their learning potential. There was a specific incident when I was volunteering that was eye-opening. I walked down with my mom to the lunchroom to pick the students up when all of the sudden the principal, vice principal and guidance counselors walked in stopping the student from standing up. They began to discuss an issue about cell phone usage and bullying that had been continuously going on and had resulted in a potential fight after school. Keep in mind that these students are about 10 years old in 5th grade, but their parents allow them to have a phone and use social media. I was appalled that these kids even knew what social media was since when I was in 5th grade, the most communication I had with my peers was on the playground at recess. The overall point is that the youth of the world now has more access to media and other people than any youth has had in the past. In chapter 7 of Media and Justice, youth driven media has become a popular topic for discussion. Although the story about my volunteering experience was negative, there are many amazing qualities that surround youth in the media.

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“Social Media Dress” image by Anthony Stone (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

 

Every day this past week, I have been sending Snapchat videos of myself saying how proud I am about the hard work my mom’s class has been completing. They are currently taking the PSSA’s and my mom said that they need a little more support this week. Social media can be a great asset to young kids especially if they have seen and been through awful experiences. There is this one girl in my mom’s class that has had an extremely tough life. She lives in a single parent home with a mom that is always working and leaves her to watch her siblings. She has caused my mom some issues in class with talking out and being involved in issues with other students. I believe that her problems in class result from her not getting the social interactions after school since she must watch her siblings. After a long talk with her about how I was in the exact position at her age, she has given my mom less problems and has shown that she wants to improve.

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“Computer literacy” image by Sidney Wydner (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

This young student could share her frustrations about her childhood with others on social media and potentially have many others in the same boat. Another great idea introduced for youth in this chapter was the HYPE program to encourage high school aged youth to digitally share their personal stories. Not only does this program promote learning and development, but it shows the realities that others have gone through and can allow for emotional skills like empathy, compassion, and giving back to develop. The great potential of these programs has been met with a struggle within communities for their support. It has become extremely hard for our youth to speak up about their social injustices and the communities in the U.S. have barely helped since even adult activists do not receive the social justice they deserve. Programs set up to help youth explore their horizons within social media is supposed to show the value of partnership, but various communities and groups have showed them the complete opposite of partnership. Giving youth the opportunity to engage social media can be a great especially when programs like HYPE are there to guide them and teach about the costs media can have. The balancing act of upholding social justice for youth and trying to change the “If it ain’t broke, don’f fix it” mindset of many communities tends to fall causing even more issues. The programs aiming to provide a voice for the youth of the world is trying to do more good than harm while also teaching about the harm media can have. I believe that the way we see the world will be constant change, and what is better than to help our youth develop and learn about that change. Although I still think it is crazy to give a 10 year old an Instagram, the learning potential and social interactions can provide the youth of today more knowledge and skills than any youth prior.

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