YA Clicks October 2014

Empowering Teens

Rebecca Purdy and the Web Surfers from the Central Rappahannock Regional Library

Typically, I’m a casual Twitter user, mainly following websites I check daily anyway, a few authors, comedians, libraries, and okay, yes, stars, but I spent a great deal of August reading politically focused feeds. The first hashtag that got my attention was #IfTheyGunnedMeDown, a response by many in the African-American community to the Michael Brown photos used by the media. Tweets showed two pictures of the same person, one of them wearing graduation gowns or military uniforms or even reading to children; the other was that same person relaxed, enjoying themselves and dressed in casual attire. The point was clear that a single photo doesn’t provide insight into a person. That hashtag was quickly followed by #NMOS14 (National Moment of Silence 2014) as protesters in 90 cities across 35 states gathered. I was able to follow marches around the country where many chanted “Hands up, don’t shoot” and watch live streamed video of protesters being corralled in Times Square when police brought the evening to a close. My new found Twitter obsession continued for days afterwards as I followed #Ferguson while events were happening live all over the city.

At first, I felt helpless sitting on my couch, unable to put down my phone while scrolling through updates, but I wasn’t and neither are teens, sometimes we just need guidance and some ideas for next steps. It’s never been more possible to follow live social actions and worldwide news.The Web Surfers and I have reviewed sites that offer tangible actions that teens can take towards the causes that affect them most. You’ll note that most use social media and build an online community to empower teens around the world.

It Gets Better

It Gets Better Project

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It started with a single video and became a worldwide movement. Columnist and author, Dan Savage, and his partner, Terry Miller, created a YouTube video designed to “inspire hope for young people facing harassment,” specifically LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender) youth.  Those who are feeling isolated, alone, pressured or downright bullied can peruse hundreds of videos from everyday people and some stars, offering encouragement, support, and stories filled with personal difficulties and triumphs with one common denominator–hope. The target audience for the videos are young adults, but that shouldn’t stop teens from submitting their personal stories of how “It gets better.” There is also easy to find helpline information for those in crisis or in need of immediate support.

Taking it Global



This “social network for social good” provides a space for like-minded teens who are interested in affecting social change in their community to come together virtually. The site is available in thirteen languages and offers tangible possibilities for actions; so many in fact, that visitors may find it helpful to watch some of the introductory videos. The “Petitions” section offers a guide to help create “meaningful petitions;” and a sampling of the country of origin for featured ones includes Afghanistan and Mauritius. “Commit2Act” allows users to set goals and for others to join with them. A young person in Sudan bought a reusable bag and 142 people from all over the world committed to eating a meal with local ingredients. “SproutSelf” is a self-directed learning experience to help teens get started in various forms of activism. Site members can earn badges to reinforce and encourage their changemaking behaviors. This is a wonderful resource for anyone hoping to become more involved in the world.

Through YA Eyes

RYOT: News + Action

RYOT Corps

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In today’s ever-changing world, current events can seem overwhelming and confusing, leaving youths feeling powerless to make a difference. RYOT.org is an excellent website devoted to providing teens with news they can understand, and ways they can take action. With frequently updated topics ranging from global conflicts, to entertainment, science, and lifestyle, any visitor is sure to find something interesting. The information in each article is concise, comprehensible, and enhanced with pictures or videos, accompanied by a memorable writer’s note explaining why the story is relevant. But the real cherry on the sundae is the action box. Found at the bottom of every article, it connects readers to organizations working to correct the given issue. A percentage of the website’s revenue is donated to a nonprofit every week, so just by reading stories users make change happen. Altogether, RYOT.org is attractive and simple to use. The icons on the navigation bar allow you to easily pick preferred topics, connect to social media, search for specific events, and learn more about the organization. There are occasional advertisements, but they are not detrimental to the overall appeal and usability of the website. For teens who want to take a stand on global issues, or simply stay informed, RYOT.org is the place for you.—Sandra Shtabnaya

Victory Over Violence

Victory Over Violence

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“Do you forget to smile and say hello to people during your day?” asks the “About” page on Victory Over Violence, an organization dedicated to nonviolence and made possible by ordinary people. This site offers concrete suggestions for building relationships, advocating peace, and improving the world–and you can implement the suggestions tomorrow. Victory Over Violence maintains that “peace is an active process,” and encourages young people to develop enough confidence in themselves to lead others to the same empowerment. The site values user participation, is easily navigated, and offers free advocacy (or “exhibition”) documents to ease the way into full involvement. This site will appeal to anyone who wants to make ripples in the pond but doesn’t know how to throw the stone.–Sherry Ann Morgenstern

Voices of Youth

Voices of Youth, UNICEF

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As new technologies continue to take the twenty-first century by storm, our internet savvy generation is rapidly rising as a leading advocate for change, and no website demonstrates this more beautifully than voicesofyouth.org. Founded by UNICEF in 1995, project VOY was created to empower teens around the world to use social and other digital media to confront important global issues. Voices of Youth is a safe, easy to use online community where teens representing over 200 countries can express their opinions on topics ranging from human rights, to poverty, disease, and violence. Each post is truly inspirational, relating unique perspectives from youths in less privileged surroundings. Voicesofyouth.org offers many interactive elements, including Facebook competitions as well as Twitter chats and Google hang-outs, where users can communicate with young innovators. There are also games, quizzes, and polls designed to increase knowledge about global issues. Additionally, monthly debates allow teens to engage in live discussions regarding corruption, gender inequality, and many other issues affecting society at large. For those who are not quite as tech savvy, VOY provides excellent tools and resources necessary for effectively conveying ideas through social media, as well as tips for Internet safety. Information is also available for educators wishing to start their own classroom discussions about global issues. Altogether, voicesofyouth.org is a wonderful site for empowering teens, both at home and in the classroom. It will leave youths inspired, enlightened, and compelled to make a difference.—Sandra Shtabnaya

YES!: Connecting, Inspiring & Collaborating with Young Changemakers


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YES! is committed to being a catalyst for change amongst young adults.  Their website reflects these ideals and provides a simple yet effective means of creating social change, providing a personal outreach program on a global scale.. The home page is mostly black and white; the only color comes from the pictures of people at work changing the world. The focus is left on the changemakers.  The minimalist design keeps it looking professional and makes it easy to navigate and for such a large scale organization, they update it frequently.  Social issues are divided into sections to make it even easier to traverse the site. Videos of encouragement are posted and are a great way to entice the audience with little time investment on their part.  The leaders of the organization are available on most social media outlets so contact is not restrictive (Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube).  YES! could be the extra push one needs to start a revolution.–Nicky Bennett

Kudos for Library Teen Sites

Johnson County (KS) LibraryTeens

This is a visually striking website; features and text are color blocked against a black background. The home page starts with just a few slides to scroll through that promote special programs. Further down on the page, the latest news and reviews are highlighted, along with “Upcoming Events” and “New Books” which are promoted with enticing covers. Talk about empowering teens–there’s a program called “Let’s Talk About Race” targeted to them directly! The conversation promises to be about race in the Kansas City metro area, but also about how recent events have changed their perspectives. Johnson County’s Young Adult Advisory Council (YAAC), Anime Club, and literary arts magazine, elementia, all have their own subpages. There’s also a “Homework Help” subsection promoting library databases and some websites including John Green’s Crash Course Literature videos on YouTube for those who need a fresh take on a classic book. Their “News” section covers the gamut from book and film related mainstream videos to short blog postings about library happenings such as their thank you parties for their summer teen volunteers.

Purdy headshot, used with permissionRebecca Purdy is the youth services coordinator for the Central Rappahannock Regional Library system in Fredericksburg, Virginia.  The Web Surfers are a collection of teens willing to volunteer some of their time to see their names in print and help young adult librarians find good sites for their library blogs and Web pages.

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