Digital Activism is using digital communication to raise awareness and deliver information to an audience regarding social or political causes.
Raising money online for humanitarian aid or a political campaign is digital activism. Raising awareness of human trafficking using Facebook or twitter is digital activism.
As an example of the impact digital activism can have on a cause, take a look at how technology was used in 2011 during the political protest in Egypt. Social media contributed to the uprising that eventually led to events that caused Mubarak to leave his position as head of the country. Digital activism led to political change. For more information about just how social media contributed to the Arab Spring, see the article When Does Digital Activism Pack a Punch?
In short, digital activism seeks change. Sometimes it works, and other times it is not as effective.
What does digital activism do for young people?
Photo CC – by Tactical Technology Collective
When we look at digital activism for young people in the United States, we are not looking at political activism on the scale of the example above. It is more about finding a cause and promoting it. A cause such as eliminating cyberbullying, helping people avoid harmful behaviors, or encouraging healthy food choices.
One cause is free and above. Free and above is digital activism that seeks to encourage teens with mental health issues and disorders. It operates on multiple social media platforms and its website provides encouragement and information about mental illness, along with links to helplines. This group of young people, in my opinion, are leaps and bounds above any other digital activism group or individual I saw. I like this site because the teens running it do not promote themselves as saviors, but seek to help in a practical way.
Digital activism allows teens to have a voice in their world. It helps them to inform others about activities or causes that they are passionate about. Digital activism is a way for teens to reach their peers with what is hopefully a positive message.
Some questions I have about digital activism
Photo CC – by Tom
- Are we teaching kids that posting is the same as acting?
This is a big concern for me. If activism is to bring about change, are some of the social activists actually making a difference, or were they just making themselves feel good by saying something? I think that we need to teach kids to act on their convictions. If kids are really concerned about poverty in their community, raising awareness using twitter is good. Doing something to help would be better. Have a food or blanket drive. Serve meals at the local soup kitchen. Volunteer as a peer tutor in a low income school. Talk is good, but it is only a first step in the process of change.
- Is the cause and subsequent activism based on facts?
We must teach students how to research their causes. Teach them to fact check what they believe to be true. This is the responsible way to raise awareness. Too often false information is used to promote an agenda. If teen activists are to be taken seriously, they must be accurate or they will discredit their cause. Worst case scenario, they will get others to act based on a misrepresentation of the truth. Let us as educators prepare kids to speak their mind, but in a responsible manner.
. . .
At this point I am not sure if I am a proponent of digital activism in the classroom. I believe that activism needs to be based on conviction. Convictions are developed over time and are personal. I am not convinced that I am going into the business of developing convictions in my students. I believe it is my job to help them to learn to think critically and deeply so they can form their own.
One teacher I read about in the article My kids, our cause and a classroom blog talked about how a teacher used digital activism in his classroom to give students the opportunity to be “agents of change.” The students raised money to loan to people in developing countries to start small business, and also started a campaign to promote healthy eating. This teacher chose subjects that matter, and gave kids the opportunity to positively interact with others about issues and make an impact on the lives of people around the world. I can see the positive side to digital activism.
In time, I will decide just how much of a role digital activism will play in my future classroom. At this point I am in the process of developing my opinion on the matter.