How Developmental Programming Influences Youths’ Awareness of their Online Audiences


How Developmental Programming Influences Youths’ Awareness of their Online Audiences


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Daniel Lannin

Mentor Department



A. Problem or Major Purpose: The current study sought to evaluate how youth described the impact of participating in a relationship and job readiness curriculum on their behaviors in online environments. Social media usage is prevalent among U.S. youth with more than 81% of students reporting the use of social media at least once a week (Agosto & Abbas, 2017). Youth identify the most salient risks associated with online environments as the prevalence of strangers, the tendency for others to misrepresent themselves, and concerns about privacy (Hundley & Shyles, 2010).Increasingly, professionals have advocated for additional educational interventions to help youth navigate online challenges (Moreno et al., 2013); suggesting it may be beneficial to examine how preexisting interventions influence youths’ online experiences. Therefore, the present qualitative study examined the influence of a program that combines relationship education and job-readiness training on youths’ online behaviors.B. Procedure: During Fall 2018 and Spring 2019, youth aged 14-21 in mid-central Illinois participated in focus groups conducted following a relationship education curriculum (14 focus groups, n = 205) and a job readiness curriculum (15 focus groups, n = 184). Youth responded to questions regarding their social media usage, attitudes, and how curricula influenced online behaviors. Following transcription, inductive analyses of responses were conducted following Corbin and Strauss’s (2015) constant comparative method to identify core themes within the responses.C. Results: Preliminary themes identified across focus groups center around increased awareness of variable audiences who may view youths’ social media posts, images, and comments. Youth reported becoming more conscious that photos they post could be accessed by individuals with ill intentions, as well as by potential employers who may view and evaluate their online behavior. One student stated that her awareness of these dynamics increased due to the curricula, noting, “they be looking up your stuff on social media.” Preliminary themes and exemplar quotes can be found in Table 1.D. Conclusions and Implications: Our findings provide preliminary evidence that relationship and job-readiness programming may assist students in becoming more aware of digital audiences and the potential relational or employment-related consequences of social media posts. Increased awareness of these implications may assist youth in more safely navigating online environments and ensuring they do not jeopardize relational and employment opportunities.


Authors: Meredith Spraggon, Jessica Quast, Luke Russell, Jeremy Kanter, Daniel Lannin, Leandra Parris, Ani Yazedjian

How Developmental Programming Influences Youths’ Awareness of their Online Audiences