August 2, 2014

SOPA Is Top Story for Young People

Young people under 30 followed protests over SOPA more closely than news about the upcoming presidential election, according to a recent Pew Research Center study.

That makes sense to librarians. They know young people, who spend so much of their lives online would be likely to follow news involving sites they visit.

“Given that Google and Wikipedia were so involved, it’s not surprising that young people followed the PIPA/SOPA stories,” says Pat Massey, a library media specialist at South Plainfield (NJ) High School, about the proposed federal antipiracy bills that prompted tech companies opposed the legislation, including Wikipedia and WordPress, to black out their sites on January 18 in protest. “The blackouts were very effective attention grabbers,” she adds.

Twenty-three percent of young people, ages 18 to 29, followed the SOPA protests. In contrast, 21 percent followed the 2012 elections, and just 10 percent tracked news about our nation’s economy, reports Pew.

Curiosity about SOPA trickled all the way down to the K–12 set. Students showed interest as educators, including librarians, spoke about the blackouts, copyright and piracy, and the bills themselves—the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA)—which have since been pulled by Capitol Hill lawmakers.

Debra Kay Logan, a media specialist in Mount Gilead, OH, seized the opportunity on the day of the blackout, January 18, to weave a lesson on copyright into a class discussion with her students at Park Avenue Elementary. Meanwhile, students at Mount Gilead High School, where she’s officially assigned, are grappling with the issues around SOPA and PIPA even more directly, says Logan.

“In addition to heavy coverage on the local news programs, tools like Google and Wikipedia put the issue directly in teens’ line of sight, and my students do have strong feelings about losing access to information,” she reports by email. “They struggle with the limitations of the [Internet] filters on a daily basis.”

That awareness helps when school librarians are building lessons for students— which Logan tries to do regularly as issues surrounding freedom of information and access to content aren’t going away.

“Any time I can connect instructional content to a relevant topical issue I do,” she says. “These connections engage students.”

 

 

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Lauren Barack About Lauren Barack

Lauren Barack writes about the connection between media and education, business and technology, and is the recipient of the Loeb Award for online journalism. She can be found at www.laurenbarack.com.

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