Online activism, social media and young people

Online or digital activism, particularly via social media, can be a great way to educate people about social issues and to raise awareness. However, online activism can sometimes fuel misinformation, scams/fraud, and online hate speech.

What is online or digital activism?

Online or digital activism is using technology, such as social media, email, and/or websites as a form of activism – enabling spread of awareness and information of political and/or social change.

Online activism, social media and young people

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, 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 other 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 get a shock value from 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. However, there have been instances where these have been fake and have therefore caused the spread of misinformation, hate speech and also fraud.

The spread of misinformation highlights the lack of experience, knowledge, and naivety in young people in social media activism.

Building your child’s digital resilience

  • If your child wants to support a cause – be sure to do your own research to know what the cause is about and 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 certain privacy settings on their phone. You can mute, hide offensive comments, block users or certain words for example. Check out our Parental Controls Guides for more information.
  • Our Digital Resilience Toolkit provides advice to help children become more resilient online.
  • Check out our IM Experts Q&A about online activism.

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See articles and resources to help children stay safe online.

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