Seven Strategies to Engage Teens in Online Civic Problem Solving
The Citizens League asked a group of teens how to best involve their peers in online civic engagement. At two Students Speak Out Design Challenge workshops, held in Minnesota and California, teens reviewed three civic engagement web spaces and, drawing on what they experienced, designed their own website and peer engagement strategies.
The teens provided concrete and experience-based advice for people designing online spaces for youth civic engagement:
Focus less on numbers, and broaden your definition of participation. Create authentic, high-‐level, inclusive, and adult-‐facilitated spaces that connect teens to their communities and help them learn civic skills. No civic engagement Web space will ever be their most preferred “go to” space online. But they will regularly visit and use it if the right opportunities are available. These opportunities will humanize the online civic experience, and treat teens respectfully as young adults. They will not rely on digital technologies to provide the experience. Digital technology tools are just that—tools.
Here are seven strategies that emerged from the teens’ contributions. Read the full Citizens League report here (pdf).
1: Provide sincere, transparent experiences that give teens authentic opportunities to contribute to real discussions and projects. Otherwise, don’t bother.
2: Rethink your definition of participation. Worry less about increasing the number of actual posts on a topic and instead be satisfied with getting teens thinking.
3: Assume teens can handle and want to tackle meaty, complicated topics.
4: Invest in adults who facilitate, coordinate, motivate, and validate.
5: Make it easy for teens to spread the word and participate via Facebook.
6: Create a space that challenges people to consider a variety of perspectives and backgrounds. Teens report that their schools are often not such a space.
7: Make the Web site a resource for teens to connect with the community, learn more and feel a part of something both on and offline.