Parkland Survivors Join a Robust, Diverse Community of Young Online Activists

Students from Parkland High School, the location of the country’s most recent mass shooting, have been successful in creating a continuous dialogue for gun control through social media.

Following the shooting at Parkland High School on February 14, students have taken to Twitter and other forms of media to express the necessity for a reformation of the gun system in the US.  

Emma Gonzalez, a student at Parkland High School, has become the face of the student-lead movement after sharing a moving speech at an anti-gun rally. Since the speech, students across the country have lead walkouts, urged their senators to make changes and even rallied outside the capitol.

A community of survivors, students and teenagers has been created through tragedy. Social platforms have been a way for teenagers to have a voice and promote change in an evolving society.

These students, some as young as thirteen or fourteen, are capturing the attention of hundreds of thousands as they take to Twitter, Facebook, and other forms of media to get their message across.

An article from Uproxx explains that “These young adults are not willing to sit back and let this particular tragedy fade into memory like so many other shootings that have caused mass outrage but then are quickly forgotten.”

This isn’t the first time that this age group, 14-18 year olds, has used the media to promote change.

Immigration

When it was announced that DACA would be ending, the country reacted accordingly. High school students reacted, as their age group would be predominantly affected by the change in law.

According to the Center for American Progress, 45% of DACA recipients are in high school, college, or graduate school.

Similar to the school shootings occurring at an alarming rate, teenagers are particularly affected by the possibility of immigration reform.

LGBTQ rights

Over 1.3 million teens (about 8%) of high school students identify as part of the LGBT community. This is an expansive issue that affects a large number of students within the age range that use social media.

Threads on Twitter or comment sections on Facebook posts, for example, allow for a community to come together for a cause. But more importantly, these teens can find much-needed validation and support amongst peer groups online that can share in their unique experiences. Teenagers recognize that change comes from a magnitude of support, and are using social media to create actual communities where discourse and democratic action can take place.

Racial Justice

Online organizing has been an essential tool of teens and young people organizing for racial justice. After the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, activists were able to quickly take to the streets to protest by rapidly networking through Twitter. The #HandsUpDontShoot tag and live reported protests were effective at mobilizing people in real time.

Since then, young people have sustained the Black Lives Matter movement for four years through Facebook groups and other online communities. Without this online activism, it’s hard to say that the BLM movement would still break through the daily torrent of the 24-hour news cycle.

In culturally developing times, the importance of individualism is growing. Social media allows for a new generation to support one another while at the same time giving each person the ability to speak for themselves.

The societal importance of promoting change through social media use can be seen as far back as the Arab Spring revolution in 2011. Young people in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere were able to grab hold of a democratized form of communication where they could effectively make the push for change.

Jessi Hempel of Wired magazine wrote They introduced a new form of political and social organizing, of “hyper-networked protests, revolts, and riots.”

Joy Baynes, a writer at Arizona Daily Star, published an article on the impact of youth-led movements. In it, she stresses that young advocates must be respected as partners and equals in such movements.

“Allowing teens autonomy has results,” Baynes writes. The media acts as a setting for teens to interact with one another and instill change through group support.

Baynes quoted survivors from Parkland High who explained, “we are losing our lives while adults are playing around.”

This sentiment is echoed through students’ use of the media: they know Twitter and Facebook to be a good way to reach out to others of the same age, and in turn create expansive movements by doing so. And the best part is, no matter the technological circumstances, the youngest among us will always be the best adapted to use the technology at their disposal to advocate for their issues. Just like millennials in the Arab Spring, and Gen Z in the wake of this shooting, the next generation will be able to find ways to even more efficiently organize and propagate on the internet.  

So long as the youth who speak for their community, and for the nation, continue to fight for what they believe in, the media will continue to serve as a platform for progress.

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