Remember when I talked about digital citizenship and digital leadership last week? I covered the meaning and importance of teaching it in schools in my post Leading Generations in Digital Citizenship.
This week, I have taken time to research a term which has a similar name but means something a little different.
So, what is digital activism?
This is where people use online tools and programs to communicate, connect, activate, and influence others. Currently, I would say the majority of those who would be labeled as digital activists are teenagers.
Teens have discovered a way for them to have their voice heard about something which they are passionate. Seemingly, the most effective method teens are using is social media. They are using social media as a way to reach other people from around the world. They are letting their thoughts and passions be known in the popular way of 140 characters (Twitter). They are communicating with those who share their passions. They are influencing and changing the world.
I recently read an article in TeenVogue called The New Face of Teen Activism. This article discussed the influence social media,specifically Twitter, has on the world. Twitter and other social media sites give teens an outlet unlike any other.
They are letting their voices be heard. They are speaking to others who are struggling with issues such as bullying, depression, suicide, and many other situations. (Read about teens truly making a change in the world here.) Twitter is unique in that it has the ability to give an encouraging word of support but it also is a way for bullies to share degrading comments.
This is where digital activism separates from digital citizenship. The latter focuses on behaving ethically and responsibly. The former is about getting something done and having an influence.
The idea of digital activism sounds good but does it really work?
Well, the answer may not be as straightforward as you think or want. As stated before, Twitter or any social media site for that matter, has two sides. It can be used for positive matters but also, unfortunately, can be used for negative. In another article I recently read called The 6 Activist Functions of Technology, the author Mary discusses the limited number of things technology tools can accomplish. The list includes shape public opinion, plan an action, protect activists, share a call to action, take action digitally, and transfer resources.
Functions like shape public opinion and take action digitally can take some time to come into effect. Other functions such as plan an actions and share a call to action may not be as time consuming to create or write, however, who knows the time it will take for it to circuit the world and actually be effective. I think with anything or any new change, it is a process. I think the potential is great but it requires dedication and passion.
What does digital activism look like?
As covered in the articles mentioned above, digital activism can look like many different things. It includes but is not limited to: online donations or fundraising, blogs, online social media accounts, online petitions, and online boycotting. I’ve participated in digital activism through fundraising online, writing and sharing my blog and thoughts, and joining groups on Facebook about something I support.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect about digital activism is the voice it gives users. I think it is important to teach children and everyone that they have a voice and how to share it. That being said, it is also important to teach them how to do so in a way that is respectful and responsible.
As educators, we want our students to become responsible citizens. We want them to discover their passions. Digital citizenship and digital activism take that a step further. Teaching and modeling digital citizenship and activism will help our students to be courteous of others’ opinions online but also let them know it’s okay to share their voice. And if they do so, they may just change the world.
A Teacher of Potential World Changers