YDME: Opportunities and Obstacles to Youth Empowerment Online


This panel includes four presentations that address the theme, “Youth, Digital Media, and Empowerment,” by exploring the opportunities and obstacles to youth empowerment online. Drawing on their research findings and practical experiences in schools, presenters consider the role that educators can and should play in supporting youth to become empowered users of digital media. The first presentation shares results from a 2010 nationwide poll about parents’ and teens’ attitudes toward privacy. Presenters discuss the implications of these findings with respect to safety, security, and ethics. In this discussion, they consider the evolving nature of privacy and the impact of governmental policy on education, privacy statements, opt-in versus opt-out policies, and targeted advertising. The second presentation shares findings from in-depth interviews with 41 middle school students attending school in the Boston area who were asked to reflect on their experiences with, and approaches to, privacy, both online and offline. The majority of subjects felt that it is difficult to create privacy online; the only control they can exert, many said, is by not participating in online spaces, which few of them are willing to do. Notably, most subjects said they had never spoken with a teacher about such issues. Presenters consider how educators could help students manage their privacy online in such a way that promotes students’ sense of agency over their online actions. Next, drawing on conversations with five classroom teachers in Northern California, the third presentation shares school-based trends that limit and police middle and high school students’ internet access and usage. The presenter discusses teachers’ efforts to navigate these school-based policies and to change their own pedagogical practices in order to empower students as users and producers of digital media. The final presentation considers the particular supports that students in urban special education programs need to become empowered users of media and technology. Drawing from two case studies of middle school students in Los Angeles, the presenter will highlight ways in which teachers can use digital media to challenge expectations about which students are capable of engaging in critical and creative literacy activities. To conclude the panel, presenters will reflect on the connections among their independent lines of work and invite audience members to consider the implications of these connections with respect to schools’ role in promoting youth empowerment online.