The effect of social media communications on positive youth development: an analysis of 4-H Facebook pages and 4-H'ers' positive development
With the hope of raising children and adolescents to become responsible and active citizens with upstanding values, many scholars and educators are paying more attention to youth organizations. Many youth-related organizations have focused their efforts on providing quality programs and opportunities to encourage early participation in civic engagements. These efforts are expected to contribute to positive development of youth and future civic engagements. In order to play a significant role in educating the next generation, youth-related organizations have actively engaged in social media to connect with youth. Social media are believed to promote learning opportunities and communications with youth and educators, which will eventually facilitate positive youth development. Therefore, this study is designed to (1) examine how youth-related organizations communicate with young members through social media in order to educate them, and (2) examine how their young users perceive the effect and impact of such communication on their development. This research consists of a two-step study to enhance understanding of the communications and its effects on positive youth development. The first step analyzed communication patterns of the national 4-H Facebook page through content analysis of posts from 2009 to 2014. For the second step, in-depth interviews were conducted with recent 4-H alumni, who used 4-H Facebook during the period of analysis, in order to find out their perceptions on the 4-H role in positive development. The results show that 4-H Facebook posts increase the organization's interaction with its young members by building more connections and by somewhat facilitating positive development of youth. These findings suggest some insights for youth-serving organizations, providing that strategic communications through social media can increase interactions with youth and potentially impact the development of positive traits that will aid them in becoming more active and responsible citizens.