Online activism, social media and young people

When it comes to social issues online, many young people get their information from social media. However, online activism can sometimes fuel misinformation, scams/fraud and online hate speech.

What is online or digital activism?

Online or digital activism is the use of technology, such as social media, email and/or websites, as a form of activism. It enables users to spread awareness and information about political and/or social change.

Social media activism

Social media has become a new and instrumental destination for young people on social issues – e.g. the Black Lives Matter movement, #MeToo, etc. – especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. This is sometimes referred to as social activism.

Social media is key in sharing this type of information to all those who might want it. For example, Instagram is more receptive to young people and is a great way for sharing content. A simple hashtag, meme or image on Instagram can be seen by millions of people in just seconds.

As well as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Go Fund Me, online petitions and even TikTok are all platforms young people have used to share, discuss and raise funds about social injustices. Some online campaigns have even successfully forced governments to pass certain laws on the back of them.

However, content shared on these platforms can sometimes contain harmful images in order to shock the audience. This can be particularly upsetting to young children, so it’s important to take practical steps to manage what they see online where you can. When done correctly, online campaigns, petitions and fundraisers are a great way to support a cause.

The spread of misinformation

However, there are instances where some online campaigns were faked, therefore spreading misinformation and hate speech. In the case of some crowdfunding sites, supporters were also victims of fraud. It’s important to check which causes and organisations are legitimate before backing them. Having conversations with your child about what they see can help ensure they are supporting reliable causes. Learn more about fake news and misinformation with our advice hub.

Help your child navigate social media information

  • If your child wants to support a cause, be sure to do your own research to check whether it’s genuine. Use fact-checking resources such as Full Fact or BBC Reality Check.
  • If your child uses social media, such as Instagram, Twitter or TikTok, you can enable privacy settings on their phone. You can mute users, hide offensive comments and block users or certain words that may be offensive or harmful. Check out our Parental Controls Guides for more information.
  • Our Digital Resilience Toolkit provides advice to help children become more understanding of what they see online.
  • Check out our IM Experts Q&A about online activism.

More to Explore

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