“We Have these Rules Inside”: The Effects of Exercising Voice in a Children’s Online Forum


Justine Cassell

MIT Media Lab E15-315

20 Ames Street

Cambridge, MA 02139

Ph: 617-253-4899

Fax: 617-253-6215





The spread of digital technology and an accompanying new digital culture are giving rise to a profound revision of views about the ages and stages of human development.  Much of what has been written about this change concentrates on the negative effects of digital culture on children – they will grow up too soon, will be exposed to negative influences, will no longer play outdoors or with real human friends.  But there are also many potentially positive effects of digital connectivity on children.  This chapter describes Junior Summit ’98, an online forum and in-person summit that gathered together more than 3000 children from 139 countries.  The children, without adult input, debated the role that technology could play in improving the world for children, came up with action plans, voted for delegates to represent them at the in-person summit, and began to implement their plans.  This chapter examines the results of participating in the Junior Summit community, and adopting such an increased role on the world stage, on children’s feelings of self-worth, their belief that they can change the world, and their ability to raise their voices.  In fact, children seem to have emerged from the experience of participating in the Junior Summit with increased feelings of self-efficacy.  They have continued to voice their opinions, to act on these opinions, and to make themselves heard by the decision makers of the world.