Intersecting Citizenry and Technology

Intersecting Citizenry and Technology

Nobody understands technology and politics like the younger generation. That statement relies on two key factors about Gen Z. The first is that they are not tech savvy, they’re tech native.

The past few years have seen tectonic shifts in arguably the two most important fields for everyday people, politics and technology. Oftentimes, the conversations regarding both areas go hand-in-hand, and you may have seen the following statements (ostensibly) online:

  1. Social media is worsening the political divide.
  2. Nobody understands politics nowadays.

As a high school student who has been working in both fields for some time now, I feel that I have something to bring to the discussion. 

The Youth: 

Nobody understands technology and politics like the younger generation. That statement relies on two key factors about Gen Z. The first is that they are not tech savvy, they’re tech native. They are the first generation to be born into, grow up with, and live by modern technology. Smartphones, social media, and now Artificial Intelligence are all things that the youngest generation is growing up with. 

Despite this, they are also the most aware of the consequences of such luxuries, which leads me to the second factor in their success. Each successive generation has taken the mantle of “activist” from the previous. When the old settle down, the new become the movers and shakers. Today, it is the youth leading the charge (you need only glance at college campuses to verify this fact). 

The youth are in the perfect position to demand effective change in both government and tech. The generation is characterized by a level of technological savviness and critical, forward thinking minds that demand change. It is now the older generation’s responsibility to foster it. 

Civics and Media Literacy:

As a member of the DemocracyReady Youth Cohort, one of our projects had us conduct peer-peer research. We sought to establish a consensus on the current state of civic education in schools, as well as levels of media literacy (the ability to consume and reflect upon all forms of media) amongst New York students. This was done through the manner of interviews, from which the following quotes are derived:

  1. I’m not sure what my rights as a student are.
  2. I have to go out of my way to know what’s going on in the world.
  3. I think I should know [what civics is], but I really don’t.

From this alone, we can conclude that civics education (especially such education in New York) has been lackluster, even if there is a strong demand for it within the student populace. 

But this issue is not just one of failing to fulfill the wishes of students, but by failing to provide a strong civic background, we are neglecting to prepare them for the future. As misinformation spreads and tech companies continue to profit off of consumer’s data, media literacy is more important than ever. 

Building a Strong Citizenship…

…means empathizing and listening to the youth, establishing a stronger civic education initiative, and demanding more from technological corporations. This responsibility falls into the hands of local and state governments, whose expertise may create action plans to best meet their constituency. While diversity in approach is vital, any viable action plan requires the following:

  1. Provide direct means of communication between policy makers and youth representatives, as well as the facilitation of further youth-led organizations in the sector.
  2. Provide clear objectives in raising the civic education of grade-schoolers, with an emphasis on highschoolers reaching voting age.
  3. Implement limitations on the activities of social media corporations, a crackdown on misinformation, and clear labels on AI-generated content.

The modern day progress of technology, in conjunction with the ever evolving political landscape, have made the two fields almost inseparable. This, in turn, has created an environment that can easily lead to a distrustful, media-addicted citizenry. However, through encouraging transparent means of communication and amplifying the knowledgeable voices of the youth, we may see the intersection of these fields grow into a more interconnected and active nation.

Back to skip to quick links