POV: It’s a regular day. You’re scrolling through Instagram casually, as most of us do, when a post comes up on your explore page. An infographic from an Instagram account you’ve never seen before, explaining an issue you’ve heard about briefly during lunch with your friends, or from somebody else’s device in a passing fleet. It’s interesting! It really is. You tap the ‘heart’ icon to like it, even going to the extent of saving the post. As a reminder, you tell yourself.
You leave Instagram for a while but upon returning, your explore page refreshes, revealing an array of even more infographics and text-filled posts, replacing the previously filled rows of memes, fashion tips, and influencers, containing information on issues and news you’ve never heard of. You click on a few of the Instagram accounts and come to realize they just all seem to have one similarity. They are seemingly run by… teenagers?
What Is Youth-Led Media?
According to Wikipedia, “Youth-led Media is any effort created, planned, and reflected upon by young people in the form of media, such as websites, newspapers, television shows and publications.” Youth-led media organisations have been particularly prominent on Instagram and other social media apps this past year in response to injustices, the want for youth voices to be heard, or even pure boredom from lockdown.
A common misconception, however, it that youth-led media is something that is “new-age” or has been present only in recent years, when that’s actually far from the truth. Let’s dive into a brief summary of the beginnings of youth-led media, shall we?
History Of Youth-Led Media.
One of the earliest youth-led media organisations can be traced back to the 1970s in Michigan, when a left-wing teen organisation called the ‘Youth Liberation of Ann Arbor’ established itself, their first article having been published the year before in 1969, titled “How to Start a High School Underground Newspaper.” Its primary goals were for student control of education, free development of youth culture, and an end of discrimination against youth, with emphasis on equal rights for all youth, environmentalism, and for an end to the Vietnam War.
In Spring of 1971, members of the organisation successfully persuaded the Ann Arbor city council to drop it’s curfew laws. During the academic year of 1971-1972, many other student unions were started in several schools around Ann Arbor due to its influence.
In the 1990s, the movement of youth-led media gained further attention in the United States due to the worsening media bias against youth. The first online youth-led media organisation, ‘The Tattoo’, was established in 1994 and went online in 1996 with the promise of giving youth a voice. Some other organisations early in the movement include the ‘Blunt Youth Radio Project’, ‘Nang!’, and more.
The Importance Of Youth-Led Media.
From current affairs, to pop culture, to politics, youth-led media gives the younger generation a chance to express their concerns, their views, and their opinions; a reflection of what the future will look like when the young grow old and eventually step into positions of power.
Youth-led media is also important as it allows news to be more accessible and relatable to the younger generation. As it can be found on common social media apps (such as Instagram), many youth-led media sites allow for people of all walks of life to be able to read about news, without regards to social class, education level, and other factors that may prevent easy access to news.
The rise of youth-led media today has seen results of many youth becoming more socially aware on topics that might have previously been viewed as something that was not of our concern. However, the past year has shown that many deep-rooted issues in systems and societies are still as ubiquitous as ever and will likely still be around when it’s our turn to take on roles as fully functioning, working members of society. This has created a ripple-like effect, almost like a silent collective agreement that we should educate ourselves on these wrongs and do our best to ensure they do not prevail.
With the rise of youth-led media, and the pressure to stay actively informed, also comes a wide range of negative impacts such as harmful effects on one’s mental health, the presence of performative activism, saviour complex, and more.
Important articles to read as a follow up after this:
- “The Youth Can Save Us, But Gen Z’s Saviour Complex Can’t”, Dylan Follmer for Zenerations, 1st December 2020
- “Activism In The Digital Age Of Social Distancing”, Priyasha Chakravarti for Zenerations, 10th November 2020
- “Is Constantly Reading The News Bad For You?”, Markham Heid for TIME Magazine,
31st January 2018
- “The Problem Of Performative Activism”, John Metta for ALJAZEERA, 20th July 2020
- “Genuine Social Media Activism: A Guide for Going Beyond the Hashtag”, Ashley Reid and Katie Sehl for Hootsuite, 7th July 2020
With the rise of youth activism, is the rise of youth-led media. Youth-led media has proven to be important in the rise of social awareness and accessibility to news, and provides a creative space for youth to harness their talents and hobbies. As long as everyone involved is responsible, as are readers and people who keep up with news from youth-led media sites, it can continue to be a vital part of activism and delivering news to many.
- Azar, T., By, Azar, T., Lozano-Strickland, Z., Lozano-Strickland, Z., Shaw, A., & Shaw, A. (2019, November 22). Youth Activism in the Age of Social Media. Retrieved December 07, 2020, from https://www.nupoliticalreview.com/2019/11/22/youth-activism-in-the-age-of-social-media/
- Hefner, K. (n.d.). The Evolution of Youth Empowerment at a Youth Newspaper. Retrieved December 07, 2020, from https://web.archive.org/web/20001003102423/http://www.youthcomm.org/Documents/Evolution.htm
- The Tattoo. (2020, April 05). Retrieved December 07, 2020, from https://youthjournalism.org/ensuring-the-future-of-news/the-tattoo/
Casey Grace Lai is a 14-year-old of Chinese, Indonesian, and Vietnamese descent currently based in Singapore. Although she enjoys a bit of everything under the sun, she’s extremely passionate about activism, Literature / History, and musical theatre. A huge fan of about any music genre out there, music is an integral part of her daily life, as are her instruments. She is highly competitive, although her proudest achievement to date is that she can sing the entirety of several Broadway musical soundtracks.