Positive Youth Outcomes & Digital Media


youth on computersThrough Networks for Youth Development the Fund for the City of New York developed a handbook of "positive youth outcomes" for practitioners. Youth development programs help youth develop competencies that will enable them to grow, develop skills, and become healthy, responsible, and caring people. Youth development is a shared responsibility, practioners cannot do it alone. They need the buy-in of youth, their families and community partners because many factors affect young people's lives. Networks for Youth Development has combined research, discussion, and practical experience in articulating best practices of youth development. They have identified the following competencies for positive youth outcomes:

Originality (Creative Competency)

Understanding ourselves and others (Personal competency)

Thinking and reasoning (Cognitive competency)

Civic competency

Our bodies (Physical health competency)

Mental health competency

Employability competency

Social competency

All young people will not demonstrate these competencies in the same way. These are progressive competencies that young people will develop at different rates. Obviously, young people can obtain these competencies in many ways but for the purposes of this site we will focus on the use of digital media to achieve various outcomes.

Positive Youth Outcomes with Digital Media

Creative competency applies to the exploration and development of self-expression. Digital media-related activities provide youth with opportunities for artistic expression, to express individuality, etc. Achievement outcomes include developing or publishing portfolios.

Personal competency applies to actions that reflect the understanding of one's own opinions and thoughts and those of others in order to handle situations appropriately and non-violently. For many people the Internet and World Wide Web has opened up whole new worlds. Young people are using chat rooms, discussion forums, weblogs, and web sites to connect to articulate and listen to others, recognize and relate to themselves and others, and define and analyze issues. Achievement outcomes include securing adequate living arrangements, having safe environments, managing money, and daily living routines.

Cognitive competency applies to intellectual development and the integration of information into operational functions. This is where educational activities play an important role. Tutorial programs help young people become more aware of their learning process and develop analytical and organizational thinking. They are able to set goals and develop basic skills. Achievement outcomes include getting a high school diploma or GED, or mastery of English language. Regarding digital media, this area is wide open for exploration.

Civic competency applies to a core of respect and value for civil and human rights of oneself and others and the recognition that one can further these rights for oneself and one's community by participating in the governmental process and in community service and organization. Digital media can be a tool for developing this competency in a variety of ways. Achievement outcomes include creating Public Service Announcements and slide shows, publishing web sites and brochures.

Physical health competency applies to the ability to maintain one's well-being and to identify, understand, and practice healthy behaviors. Achievement outcomes include creating PSAs and web sites with information regarding regular physical examinations health maintenance.

Mental health competency applies to the ability to identify, understand and deal with one's emotions and feelings.

Employability competency applies to vocational awareness based upon analysis of the current labor market and work-place conditions; they are not perscriptive judgments. The loss of U.S. jobs to overseas competitors is shaping up to be one of the defining issues of the new century. People are seeing not just a decline in manufacturing jobs, but also the outsourcing of hundreds of thousands of digital media-related jobs--everything from software coders to video editors.

"Other countries are now encroaching more directly and successfully on what has been, for almost two decades, the heartland of our economic success -- the creative economy. Better than any other country in recent years, America has developed new technologies and ideas that spawn new industries and modernize old ones, from the Internet to big-box stores to innovative product designs. And these have proved the principal force behind the U.S. economy's creation of more than 20 million jobs in the creative sector during the 1990s, even as it continued to shed manufacturing, agricultural, and other jobs." - From Creative Class War by Richard Florida

Achievement outcomes for employability include jobs and mentoring for youth through workforce development (partnerships), job certification and training, GED and high school diploma, and job retention.

Social competency applies to the manner in which one consistently responds to other individuals, expects other individuals to respond to oneself and interaction with members of groups sharing one's "social address" as well as with members of groups different than one's own. Achievement outcomes include the ability to form and maintain consistent relationships, i.e. through conferences, youth festivals, and screenings.

Myth of the Digital Generation

This refers to the idea that growing up online is going to produce a more socially connected, better informed, and more creative generation. In a way, having access to online, digital media content can increase awareness and knowledge of the world. In another way, this myth can distort the reality kids must negotiate in the online world, and exaggerate the centrality of digital media in children's lives.

Studies show that young people are using the Internet effectively as a resource for doing homework, connecting with friends, and seeking out news and entertainment. This does not mean they are more media literate or more able to succeed in school. Young people should have a menu of educational activities both online and offline. Media education should be a part of their education, in order to be better informed about digital media.