Reaching Youth

Youth in Action


What does our research tell us?

Research by The Ocean Project and others has shown that young people (12-25 years old) are the most knowledgeable about, and most willing to act for, environmental causes. We’ve also found that parents defer to young people when it comes to environmental decisions for the household.

Young people know there are problems, and are motivated to act. However, they are unsure what they can do to change things. They believe individuals can have an effect on environmental problems, communicators just need to reach out and connect.

How to Reach Youth: The Internet

The Internet is certainly one of the most powerful potential tools to reach youth. The Ocean Project’s research indicates that while teens and tweens trust aquariums to give them accurate information about ocean issues that over 71% of them would rather acquire this information over the Internet rather than by visiting an aquarium in person.

Considering that 8-18 year olds spending an average of about an hour and a half a day on computers and that 33% of this age group has online access in their own bedrooms, the Internet could be utilized by ZAMs to communicate environmental concerns and inspire action among this highly influential and responsive demographic. Social networking sites such as Facebook are hotspots for this age group and 73% of online teens have profiles on at least one social networking site. Twitter, however, has not gained as much popularity with 12-17 year-olds of whom only 8% ever use Twitter.

Internet Communication Resources

The Center for Communication & Civic Engagement Inventory of Online Youth Civic Engagement Resources
The Center for Communication and Civic Engagement has just released a new report that catalogs and describes many of the most prominent youth civic engagement resources on the web. It is crucial for civic practitioners and scholars to be aware of the wide range of online projects dedicated to youth engagement, and the purpose of this report is to contribute to that goal.

The Youth Effect
The Youth Effect is an online toolkit developed by the Youth Task Force of the Young Global Leaders of the World Economic Forum, as part of an effort to ensure that children and youth are an integral part of designing, shaping and creating a more sustainable future. The toolkit was developed to help you and other leaders of organizations across all sectors engage youth in a way that is successful for your organization, the youths involved, and our planet. It goes over questions to ask yourself about how your organization currently interacts with the next generation of leaders, and provides tips and case studies to improve your efforts.

Youth social action: building a global latticework through information and communication technologies
Discusses how youth social action initiatives use information and communication technologies (ICT) to foster connection, action and sustainability. In-depth interviews were performed with five youths (aged 18-24 years) and two youth workers at two international non-government organizations (NGOs) focusing on social justice and human rights: Three main results are discussed: (i) the role of connection in building a youth action movement; (ii) the differential use of various communication technologies; and (iii) access barriers to connection opportunities.

Communicating Citizenship Online: Models of Civic Learning in the Youth Web Sphere. A study conducted by Engaged Youth
This study is about online civic action overall, but it can be applied to any offline organization which wishes to create online youth involvement. The study finds that organizations too often reproduce their offline models of citizenship and civic engagement in their online sites, which don’t involve youth successfully. It provides advice on how to communicate citizenship online.

Engaging Youth in Social Media: Is Facebook the New Media Frontier? A NewsCloud‚ University of Minnesota Research Report Executive Summary
This paper is a short look at how successful a new environmental facebook application, Hot Dish, was at getting young people involved with environmental news and action on a daily basis.

Civic Life Online: Learning How Digital Media Can Engage Youth, A MacArthur Study
Teaching young people how to use digital media to convey their public voices could connect youthful interest in identity exploration and social interaction with direct experiences of civic engagement. Participatory media that enable young people to create as well as consume media are popular among high school and college students. The participatory characteristics of online digital media are described, examples briefly cited, the connection between individual expression and public opinion discussed, and specific exercises for developing a public voice through blogs, wikis, and podcasts are suggested.

Methods for Evaluating Web-based Environments
Online resource-based learning environments provide promising methods of outreach and support in teacher education. Automated evaluation tools and data collection methods can help Web site designers successfully implement and refine such environments to provide high quality learning opportunities for pre-service and in-service teachers. This article presents a three-pronged approach for evaluating issues of design and user-centered functionality in online, resource-based Web sites. Implications for teacher education initiatives are discussed.

Hershey|Cause online guide outreach tools
A simple, easy-to-use toolkit which discusses the pros/cons of different internet outreach tools and why they might or might not be useful for your particular organization.


How to Reach Youth: In Person

Though the internet is a great new tool for getting young people interested and involved with conservation, nothing can replace the long-lasting effect that taking real-world action has. The social aspect of activism in conjunction with friends and other members of the community can make real-world activism more meaningful than clicking the “Like” button on Facebook. In this section we provide resources that help young people organize as well as examples of successful environmental youth groups.

Green Street Youth Engagement Manual
This manual, originally designed for Green Street, contains lessons and strategies applicable to any organization that wishes to increase their youth involvement. The purpose of this handbook is to provide an easy to use, succinct guide that outlines some of the best ways to encourage authentic youth participation in your organization. It’s designed to include practical hands-on advice, real-life examples, reproducible checklists, worksheets and other tools, as well as a brief list of helpful resources and web links. Very detailed with lots of good information.

Water Planet Youth Water Conservation Action Resources
Rich, detailed action guides for youth. These guides prepare youth and help them plan conservation actions such as a beach clean-up or being a community journalist. Watch this site for more free materials soon to be added.