How young people use social media to engage civically

Protesters gather to demonstrate the death of George Floyd on June 4, 2020, in New York. — On May 25, 2020, Floyd, a 46-year-old black man suspected of passing a counterfeit $20 bill, died in Minneapolis after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

“While some young people might not be able to vote yet, they are leveraging social media to educate themselves and their peers on topics ranging from gun violence to racial justice to climate change. It isn’t unusual for young teens to have hundreds — even thousands — of followers. And most teens today are already heavily networked with their peers and community, allowing them to disseminate information quickly and easily. Teens have been using social media to circulate news posts, register to vote, share petitions, fundraise, donate, offer political commentary, document and share acts of injustice and mobilize their peers to take action.

Youth have carved out a digital space for themselves to freely engage in activism all summer. For instance, in June, K-pop fans co-opted the #WhiteLivesMatter on Twitter and Instagram to stand in solidarity with the racial equality protests persisting across the United States. Later that month, teens on TikTok and K-pop fans mobilized to inflate attendance expectations at President Trump’s Tulsa rally. “What seemed like a mere prank turned out to be a compelling protest,” Dr. Ashley Lee, postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University’s Digital Civil Society Lab, told me. As early as this spring, after the wave of Black Lives Matter protests began, many young activists began using platforms like Instagram to share safety tips about protesting and document instances of police brutality at the protest sites.”

You can read more of my work and the full piece on PBS NewsHour Extra here.