Social Indicators of Child Well-Being and the World Wide Web: Considering Youth as Users
Paper to be presented at the CRN International Symposium 98 Augmented Childhood: Evolution
of Child Development in the Multimedia Environment, January 22-24, 1998, Tokyo, Japan.
Social indicators of child well-being have become increasingly important as tools for public policy at all levels of government, from the local community to the international arena. This is particularly the case in the United States, where state and local governments have been taking greater responsibility for the design and execution of social programs in a process that is popularly termed "devolution."
There has been a corresponding explosion of data reflecting trends in the well-being of children and youth available through the World Wide Web. The primary users of these data are government staff and policy makers, service providers, child advocacy groups, researchers, and adult citizens. Substantial efforts are being made to present such data over the Web in ways that are most useful for these groups. While children and youth are the focus of these data, relatively little thought has been given to how such Web sites could be used to serve children and youth as users and consumers of this information.
This paper will review selected Web sites that feature social indicator data on children and youth at the international, national U.S., and local levels. It will describe an effort by Child Trends, Inc. to develop a web site that organizes links to these many web sites in ways intended to increase their usefulness to the groups of users listed above. Finally, it will focus on potential strategies that would make such Web sites, and in particular the Child Trends Web site, more useful to teenage youth. It will discuss the different purposes for which youth might use such Web sites (for research in or out of school, to inform their own social action and community service activities, to increase knowledge of similarities and differences among youth across cultures), and their implications for Web site design and for the kind of measures which are made available.