Academic journal article Federal Communications Law Journal

The Challenge of Developing Effective Public Policy on the Use of Social Media by Youth

Academic journal article Federal Communications Law Journal

The Challenge of Developing Effective Public Policy on the Use of Social Media by Youth

Article excerpt

I.   INTRODUCTION
II.  THE NEED FOR A NEW FRAMEWORK
III. PRIVACY FOR YOUTH" A CASE EXAMPLE
IV.  THE NEED FOR NEW COLLABORATIVE
     POLICYMAKING MECHANISMS
     A. Cluster One
     B. Cluster Two
V.   TRANSFORMING LEARNING, SOCIALIZING, AND
     COMMUNICATION PRACTICES
VI.  CONCLUSION

I. INTRODUCTION

Legal scholarship in the United States has evolved greatly over the course of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. (1) A recent trend is toward various forms of interdisciplinary scholarship in law, including the combination of legal methods with methods drawn from the social science. There are some good reasons for the growing popularity of this form of interdisciplinarity. One reason is that, in certain subfields of law, it is impossible for a lawyer to make strong policy arguments without a solid grounding in the data gathered by those who specialize in other disciplines. The field of youth media policy is one such subfield. This particular form of interdisciplinarity will be increasingly important in the future.

Policymakers working on matters related to youth media policy need to listen to the findings of the best social scientists in our shared field in order to make better decisions. The reasons for adopting this particular interdisciplinary approach--beyond mere methodological hipness--are substantive. The relevant youth practices are shifting very quickly. Social norms in digitally mediated environments are extremely powerful--often trumping law and public policy and, in turn, posing special problems for those who seek to impose traditional methods of direct regulation. Our public policy goals are often in tension with one another; reconciling them can be tricky. Social science research can help us to understand the broad frame in which these discussions are most helpfully grounded. And as we look to the future, it is important that we understand the substantial shifts in youth practice in order to be able to craft effective policy in this area.

In this paper, I set forth a broad framework, grounded in social science research, within which a policy conversation can be held. The paper also presents a case example examining privacy issues for youth where public policy might be improved by data-driven discussions.

II. THE NEED FOR A NEW FRAMEWORK

Our youth media policy ought to be grounded in a stable theoretical frame that guides our decision making at a high level. This broad theoretical frame should be informed by, and in turn inform, the kinds of questions social science researchers are asking when they are in the field. This framework should also serve as a starting point for our policymaking.

For the purposes of this Essay, I start with the theory that youth media practice holds enormous promise to help support a bright future of learning, economic growth, and civic engagement. At the same time, I recognize the limits of the use of any technology to address major social issues (for instance, inadequacies in our system of education); these issues must be addressed at a fundamental level, and not merely through more effective employment of new media. I recognize that not everyone has equal access to or skill in using new technologies, and that we risk exacerbating important societal problems (for instance, the gap between rich and poor) if we ignore these differences between groups of youth. I recognize the extent to which new information technologies are used by those who would do harm to our youth through child pornography, sexual exploitation, bullying, and exposure to unwanted, harmful content. I acknowledge, furthermore, the extent to which the use of new technologies amplifies other complicated trends in society that need to be addressed through policy, such as the commercialization of the childhood experience and the collection of data about our youth by many parties without sufficient protections.

The overarching public policy goal should include an affirmative effort to balance a series of interests that are sometimes, but not always, in harmony with one another. …

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