Children’s civic engagement

Online learning environments enable children to develop emergent forms of civic engagement.

In the Scratch online community, children and young people globally are provided a space to learn programming by designing, sharing and discussing interactive media projects. A project by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab, members have shared over 16.3 million projects and 87.4 million project comments. Looking into this civic phenomenon of using online tools at very early ages, researchers Ricarose Roque, Sayamindu Dasgupta, and Sasha Costanza-Chock investigate how young Scratch community members aged between 8 and 16 years develop emergent forms of civic engagement. Equally, they inquire into how they connect with issues of global and civic importance in questions around community governance – an antidote to the usual governance of online learning environments and communities where young people are often denied agency. 

Children’s Civic Engagement in the Scratch Online Community’, published in Social Sciences, offers a typology of the strategies that children and young people utilise for self-expression, to engage with their peers within their community and create calls to action. children’s civic engagement

While children appropriate the affordances of digital platforms to “discuss, connect, and act with their peers and in their communities”, the research outlines guidelines to encourage young people to connect to topics that hold personal meaning and enable them with familiar tools and practices. It also saliently identifies facilitation as crucial to support youth participation, closely followed by the notion that community ownership is a pathway to genuine civic action. In turning to an analysis of the community’s reaction, also drawing on Scratch member peers and adult moderators, they highlight key lessons as they work toward describing guidelines for educators and designers in support of children’s rights to civic engagement in digital learning environments.

Ricarose Roque, Assistant Professor in Information Science at the College of Media, Communication and Information, University of Colorado (Boulder), leads the Family Creative Learning project. Sayamindu Dasgupta is a postdoctoral associate at the MIT Media Lab. Sasha Costanza-Chock is Associate Professor of Civic Media in the Comparative Media Studies/Writing Department, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Sally Hussey is a Melbourne-based writer and Bang the Table’s Senior Managing & Commissioning Editor of Content and Research. She has an extensive background in the publishing, academic and cultural sectors.

Photo: ITU Pictures/Flickr/cc

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