The world would be vastly different without the development of modern inventions and improvements in standards of living. The internet, in particular, has become an especially vital tool which has shaped today's society. Due to its wide accessibility and ability to connect users with information of all genres, the internet appeals to both adults and youth alike. The United States has caught on to its influence, employing the internet’s power to educate the country’s youth. According to research conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project
, the integration of the internet at school is a growing phenomenon. A report by The Internet at School
shows that of all online teens, “78% (or about 16 million students) say they use the internet at school.” The report also concludes that “very few rely exclusively on their school’s internet connections,” implying that teenagers also use the web to pursue their individual and unscholarly interests. However, the internet has become as customary for the teenage population as it has for the rest of society. The Internet 2005 Status Report
claims that “the web has become the ‘new normal’ in the American way of life; those who don’t go online constitute an ever-shrinking minority.” Keeping in touch with family, finding information on higher education, and even seeking employment are now common online activities. It is no wonder that "logging on" has since become a modern necessity. It is therefore reasonable for many enthusiasts to view the internet as an instrument capable of achieving worldwide changes.
As the popular saying goes, today’s youth is tomorrow’s future, and no other site like Webby Awards
makes this case more apparent. Youthink! promotes activism by offering a wealth of information regarding global issues, while also providing an outlet for teenagers and young adults to express their thoughts and concerns regarding such subjects. There is no doubt that with its quality of information and use of innovative multimedia techniques, in addition to minor changes, Youthink! will successfully awaken and encourage the involvement of a generation which will ultimately decide the fate of global welfare.
In the words
of coordinator Christine Sedky, Youthink!’s objective is "to help [one] stay in touch with the issues that shape our world ... [by] offering another perspective and the latest facts.” With this in mind, the website uncovers issues ranging from the more commonly known, like the AIDS
pandemic, to the less familiar phenomena of debt relief
. For instance, the explanation of urbanization is divided into four components. The term is first introduced under “What is it
,” which explains that “cities, large and small, are at the heart of a fast changing global economy—they are a cause of and response to world economic growth,” and features current statistics that reveal the impact of growing cities around the world. The website is also careful to includes reasons for the anticipated response "Why Should I care?
," highlighting the lack of housing, infrastructure services, and property rights that are experienced by the urban poor. In “What is the International Community Doing?
" the “three policy dimensions to ensure [that] all citizens have adequate living conditions” are outlined as urban planning, urban development strategy, and urban governance. Furthermore, Youthink! allows readers to become involved in improving problems associated with worldwide urbanization in "What Can I do
,” providing links to UN Volunteers
and The Cities of Alliance
, a coalition committed to improving the living conditions of the urban poor.
Youthink!'s nature and content lends to its authority and credibility as an activist website. Being an affiliate of The World Bank
, Youthink! upholds quality of information as its utmost priority. The site’s manipulation of economic evidence plays an integral role in supporting its cause. For example, World Bank provides Youthink! with the most current statistics in AIDS
research. According to the World Bank, “since HIV was first documented in 1981, more than 25 million people (men, women and children) have died of AIDS-related illnesses.” Currently, “40 million people in the world live with HIV/AIDS” and “2.3 million are children under 15.” Furthermore, “14,000 more people are infected with HIV every day. Half of them are under 25.” The use of such facts allows the young audience to relate to their global contemporaries who fall victim to the AIDS epidemic, allowing for a more profound understanding of the issue at hand. The empirical data not only identifies the consequences of the endemic, but also invokes readers to become involved.
The general layout for each of Youthink!'s webpages demonstrates the broad range of topics that are covered. To successfully create a website, Web Style Guide
suggests that designers pay special attention to “[providing] for the needs of all [their] potential users … and never [require] readers to conform to an interface
that places unnecessary obstacles in their paths.” The presentation of so many topics, as a result, may at first appear overwhelming and further dissuade readers from continuing to view the website. However, it is clear that Youthink! has indeed taken its audience into consideration when deciding to include all of these issues. In doing so, the site’s material caters to the needs and expectations of teenagers and young adults, both of which tend to lose interest easily. With more topics and outside links, visitors have more subjects to choose from which pertain to their own interests. If one individual would like to research gender bias
while another is simply curious about globalization
, both have the option of doing so. The abundant number of choices leads to the higher chance of viewers spending additional time browsing the site, as well as returning to it later on.
Another attribute worthy of mentioning is the consistency in organization and balance, both of which complement the overall efficacy of the website. Carefully placed links and easy-to-locate titles simplify navigation. Such judicious planning makes it easier for visitors to return to Youthink’s homepage or issue of interest. For those with an insatiable thirst for knowledge, it is just as easy to obtain additional information on a topic by clicking on convenient links like “Related Stories” or external links provided under “Learn More,” which are featured under each Issues category
Another essential element of Youthink! is its tone of writing. In general, the passages are formally written and do not lack details that an adult would consider significant. At the same time, the text is accessible to the younger, targeted audience. For those who are less familiar with economic terms, Youthink! provides clickable vocabulary words within its passages that direct readers to the site’s main glossary
. One may discover the meaning of “Gross Domestic Product,” which Youthink! defines as “the value of all final goods and services produced in a country in one year. GDP can be measured by adding up all of an economy's incomes (wages, interest, profits) or expenditures (consumption, investment, government purchases and net exports)—exports minus imports.” Although GDP has multiple factors with which to calculate its value, this definition appropriately responds to a reader’s initial confusion of the word’s meaning. However, it also refrains from underestimating the knowledge of the audience.
There is even a section of the website devoted to children
, along with helpful hints for ways in which teachers
may discuss Youthink!’s complex subject material. Youthink! suggests that teachers coordinate activities that allow younger students to creatively express global issues and concerns. Students may better understand what is happening around the world by designing “a comic strip to explain how the news issue takes effect” or create a "poster, postcard, radio or TV public service announcement, slogan, etc.," with the objective being to “create a message to explain the given issue (or to support one side of the issue)."
In addition, the website's structure and arrangement of categories lends to the logical course of action which visitors may take. The Web Style Guide maintains that “the simplest way to organize
information is to place it in a sequence." For Youthink!, its sequence consists of sensible steps toward becoming aware and getting involved. After becoming familiar with the homepage and the global issues that exist, one may then Take Action
. It is as simple as donating to the Mercy Corps
, volunteering for the United Nations
, or even interning at various organizations like the Asian Development Bank
. The incorporation of so many outside links allows teenagers of all demographics to offer their time and energy to making an impact on the world.
Along with its wealth of knowledge, Youthink! fully employs the internet's capabilities in order to effectively maintain the attention of its audience. According to the criteria of the Webby Awards, good content
of a website “is not just text, but music, sound, animation, or video – anything that communicates a site’s body of knowledge.” Furthermore, it should also have the characteristics of being “engaging, relevant, and appropriate for the audience” which “always leaves you wanting more.” Youthink! certainly satisfies each of these values. Its simplistic yet vibrant color scheme naturally catches the reader’s eye and encourages further exploration. The fusion of high-quality content, along with a visually stimulating and interactive design, allows for an engaging medium through which the audience may participate.
The most successful feature of this website is the interaction that is possible through its application of multimedia. Youthink! showcases real stories and documentaries, games, and even trivia. The image to the left is just one of the many forms
of multimedia that is available for viewing and hearing. There are even quizzes like "How Well Do You Know Africa"
, which tests one's knowledge of current issues and comprehension of Youthink! reports that are available for reading. For this particular quiz, a series of questions are presented in which three options are given until the correct one is chosen. The answer to the question “How often does a child in Africa die from the preventable disease of malaria?” turns out to be “one child every thirty seconds.” The site expands on this fact, noting that “despite being completely preventable and 100% treatable, this mosquito-born disease is the leading killer of African children.” Youthink! also includes quizzes intended for their grade school audience, utilizing more age appropriate language and less complicated phrases. By allowing children at younger ages to participate, Youthink! is able to inspire concern for issues that they may later engage in. Activities like Unicef
sponsored Girl Child
help explain the concept of gender bias, answering the general question, “Why aren’t girls treated the same as boys?” The quiz opens with “Why might girl children be at risk even before birth?” Youthink! offers the following explanation: "In some societies sons are valued more highly than daughters. The baby, growing inside her mother, may already be in danger because her parents might choose to end the pregnancy when they find out that their baby is a girl.”
After reader's have become well informed, Youthink!'s next and most important goal is to inspire activism. Perhaps the easiest and most direct way to get involved is by first voicing one's concerns on Youthink's message board under “Tell us what you think!” which may be appropriately found in the Get Involved
category. This forum is available “to share [one’s] thoughts, opinions and stories with the Youthink! community.” Encouraging such participation allows online visitors, whether they be frequent or not, a means to express their own ideas and feelings with others around the world.
These outlets, which allow children to acquire and test their knowledge or simply communicate their concerns, are what the Webby Awards criteria refers to as good interactivity
. The website acts “more than a rollover or choosing what to click on next; it allows you, as a user, to give and receive. It insists that you participate, not spectate.” Youthink! is obviously aware of the powerful force of the younger generation presents and is therefore responsive to the demands of its targeted audience. To sustain the reader's attention, the website applies all forms of multimedia, and is successful in arousing sympathy and understanding for the people of developing countries. Consequentially, it may gain participants who are willing to devote their time and effort toward global development.
Despite Youthink!’s acclaim, minor adjustments may further its success. Each issue category under the “What Can I Do” portion contains links to organizations and programs aiming toward alleviating that specific situation. For example, under the education
category are websites with instructions on becoming a tutor or building a school under habitat for humanity
. Although these are helpful sites to browse through, Youthink! could be more specific in directing its audience. One would expect links that are organized in such a way to guide a potential activist who is interested in helping a certain region or country-specific area. Instead, Youthink! readers are currently left with having to find these resources themselves. Even more vague is their link for becoming a tutor
. This simply directs you to its webpage with a list all the possible organizations one could become involved with. Youthink!, aware of its inadequate guidance, suggests that you search “this site for a list of websites that offer volunteer opportunities.” Furthermore, it would behoove Youthink! to put more effort toward highlighting the responses and creative ways in which its young leaders have made a difference in the world. Such success stories should be featured on the homepage, to offer ideas for other readers and encourage those who have yet to become activists.
Youthink! is progressively moving forward with their use of the internet medium, educating the younger population by presenting issues that already affect the lives of millions of people around the world. This site leaves any visitor with a good overall experience
and inspiration to making a difference. Granted that changes are made toward creating more specific links for involvement and by emphasizing the current accomplishments of the younger generation, Youthink! will inevitably triumph in achieving activism.