Led by Principal Investigator Urs Gasser and Youth and Media Director Sandra Cortesi, in cooperation with Berkman board member John Palfrey and colleagues, Youth and Media (YaM) encompasses an array of research, advocacy, and development initiatives around youth and digital technology. By understanding young people‘s interactions with digital media such as the Internet, cell phones, and video games, this highly collaborative project aims to gain detailed insights into youth practices and digital fluencies, harness the associated opportunities, address challenges, and ultimately shape the evolving regulatory and educational framework in a way that advances the public interest. In the past, the YaM team has engaged in a broad range of activities and produced a number of high-profile reports, which are documented on its website.
The Youth and Media project is split into a number of research projects and initiatives.
Current projects include:
- Information Quality. Building upon the foundational research from the previous academic year, the YaM team has engaged in two deep dives regarding quality issues of two types of online information that are particularly important from a societal and personal perspective: news (“current events”) and health information. Supported by the McCormick Foundation, the YaM team engages in collaborative research effort to close an important knowledge gap about youths’ online news behavior – including news gathering, evaluation practices, and creative re-use of information related to current events. The second deep dive focuses on health information. In close collaboration with Berkman Faculty Fellow Dr. Claire McCarthy, the YaM team designed a study to learn how youth search for, evaluate, and share health information online. Research shows that young people are increasingly turning to the Internet as a primary source for health information. This presents a critical topic of investigation, because the consequences of misinformation or other forms of low-quality information can be serious. Yet, this space also presents opportunities for informing youth about health issues that they might have felt hesitant about scoping out elsewhere.
- Youth and Online Privacy. A long-standing interest of the YaM team is to better understand youth’s online information sharing practices and their evolving notions of and attitudes towards privacy, including reputation. In the past academic year, the YaM team has launched a long-term research initiative to gain a more nuanced understanding of youths’ conception of privacy, how this conception may differ from an adult perspective, and how it is reflected in the kinds of activities youth engage online. Specifically, the YaM team has entered a strategic partnership with Pew Internet Research – represented by Lee Rainie, Mary Madden, and Amanda Lenhart – to study these questions through mixed methods such as literature reviews, focus groups, and surveys.
- Born This Way Foundation Partnership. The Born This Way Foundation (BTWF) has partnered with the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The California Endowment and The Berkman Center at Harvard to explore the best ways to reach youth and create a new culture of kindness, bravery, acceptance and empowerment. BTWF, a non-profit charitable organization, will address issues like self-confidence, well-being, anti-bullying, mentoring and career development and advocacy. With a focus on digital mobilization to create positive change, BTWF will lead youth into a braver new society where each individual is accepted and loved as the person they were born to be.
- Youth in Developing Countries. In the past academic year, the YaM team has deepened its partnership with the UNICEF digital citizenship and safety project. The joint venture is focused on mapping both challenges (especially safety issues) and opportunities (digital citizenship) of the rapidly expanding digital ecosystem for children in developing countries. Ongoing exploratory studies – including literature reviews, focus group interviews, and surveys in collaboration with local research partners as well as UNICEF country offices – focuses on Kenya, Zambia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
Past projects include:
- The Youth and Media Policy Working Group Initiative. A project which has been highly active in the previous year in releasing a number of major reports.
- Digital Natives. Research for and extension of the acclaimed book Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives by Palfrey and Gasser. Along with publication of translations of the work in four languages (with versions in six more languages forthcoming) and a paperback version, summer interns have produced a new series of videos exploring the themes and issues of the book.
- Creative Rights. A project, which came out of the extensive research behind Born Digital that demonstrated the need for a sensible copyright curriculum (see Youth, Creativity, and Copyright in the Digital Age).