Celebrating NextGen Connect’s Innovative Solutions to Tech Challenges

It’s an exciting time for our youth leadership development program NextGen Connect at Fairplay! It’s time to celebrate the finale of our program by sharing our youth leaders’ projects with you!

They’ve worked for 12 weeks on their digital wellness projects, they’ve collaborated with their adult partners now they’re ready to celebrate what they’ve accomplished.

Thanks to generous funding from the RT Youth Power Fund, this year we had 67 youth leader applicants apply for 13 paid positions. Our youth leaders have been working on projects ranging from a podcast encouraging teens to relax into nature and a video explaining social media addiction to a booklet explaining why your phone makes you feel bad through a DBT lens and a magazine for tweens called “Behind the Screens”.

Take a look at these projects – we guarantee you’ll be filled with hope as you explore these new solutions to digital wellness issues affecting young people.

Our 2024 NextGen Connect Youth Leaders’ Projects:

Fight How Your Phone Makes You Feel: Bee Herbstman & Sam Kane-Gerard

My Adult Partner and I created a booklet for guidance offices that shares skills that will help people battle the cognitive distortions caused by social media and excessive screen use. We have also created a website which is simply an area for the booklet to be accessed. Our audience is middle and high schoolers, and we hope they will read the book and find it easy to apply the skills to their lives.

Be Kind: Caleb Liu & Mary Anne Radmacher

BeKind is a physical journal designed for children aged 6-9. Prompts are designed to get children thinking about topics like empathy, gratitude, respect, and community service with the goal to help them develop an understanding of kindness and a motivation to give kindness to the world.

Why Your ADHD Tween Can’t Get off Their Screen: Understanding the Brain and How to Help: Celie Hudson & Gillian Jarvis

This is a multi-page resource for parents of 10-13 year old children with ADHD, aimed at helping them understand their child’s brain, how ADHD can interact with various digital tech use patterns, why, and how to help. It includes parent tips, personal insight, conversation starters, and fact sheets based on research and conversations with experts.

Future of Social Media Action Toolkit: Daniella Ivanir & Angela Campbell

This Action Tool Kit is a guide to facilitating peer-to-peer conversations about the future of social media and helps young people reimagine platforms that connect them, educate them, and inspire them. These peer conversations at scale have the power to shape platform design and safe tech policy.

Section 230 and the Children’s Media Legal Advocacy Landscape: Eden Miller & David Monahan

My project connects current discussions around Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act with the children’s media advocacy landscape more broadly. I hope it will be a helpful resource for individuals who want to understand how the puzzle pieces in the children’s online legal advocacy space fit together.

Control Your Scroll: Elizabeth Tate & Chris Flack

Control Your Scroll: How to Demote Your Device and Reclaim Your Life” is a book by Gen Z for Gen Z. In “Control Your Scroll,” I tell the story of my negative experience with social media and I provide readers with a series of practical exercises to guide them in changing their relationships with social media for the better. By blending personal narrative as well as actionable insights for behavioral change, I hope to inspire young adults to take empowered ownership of their digital choices.

Are you addicted to Social Media? Here’s how to tell!: Jonathan Ruiz & Jean Rystrom

I addressed social media use in young adults and teenagers by creating two short videos: Are you addicted to social media? Here’s how to tell! and Likes or Mental Health? Which do you want more of? I shared these short videos in person to a group of about 30 youth at the Boys and Girls Club and fellow classmates at Harold Washington College. In addition, I gathered feedback from over 25 viewers about the effectiveness of the videos.

Hold social media companies accountable for the proliferation of drugs on their platforms: Olivia Konar & Amy Neville

My project is a combination of an op-ed, which outlines the failure of the US government to hold Social Media companies accountable for allowing drug sales on their platform, and a one-pager on the myths surrounding the Cooper-Davis Act. I want to use both of these pieces to influence the public and the government to support the passage of the Cooper-Davis Act, specifically targeting Senator Schumer and asking him to bring the Cooper-Davis Act to a vote.

Collaborative Communication in the Classroom: Toyin Openibo & Bill Softky

The ability to communicate is a crucial part of the human experience, and yet, human interactions are being replaced with artificial ones. Thus, I created an activity for elementary students (grades 3-5) that would allow them to express themselves, especially amongst those they may not often talk to as they work in pairs while utilizing fun prompts, lockets and keys, and stickers. I hope that in participating in this activity students will build bonds with their classmates, while also coming to realize how fun talking and working with others they may not often work with can be.

“Behind the Screens” Magazine: Sadie Goldstein & Susan Linn

“Behind the Screens” is a 28 page magazine for youth ages 10-13. The magazine features informative articles, tips and tricks for reducing screen time, reading recommendations, an interview with somebody who deleted all of her social media accounts, activity ideas for summer ’24, a contribution from a 12 year old, puzzles/games, and more. This magazine teaches kids to view screen time through the lens of opportunity cost, with the goal of inspiring them to ‘reclaim their free time’ through the pursuit of non-screen activities.

Naturwind: Sierra Koski & Lais Fleury

Escape the endless scroll and immerse yourself in Naturwind, a podcast created by Sierra to help you reclaim your time from social media. Explore the wonders of nature, hear inspiring stories, and learn practical tips for finding peace away from screens.

Ohio Kids Code: Vinaya Sivakumar & Chris Vineis

The Ohio Age Appropriate Design Code (AADC) is a state legislation that regulates how companies to consider the privacy and protection of children in the design of any digital product or service. We had the opportunity to propose a rough draft of the Ohio AADC to the Ohio Lt Governor’s Common Sense Initiative Office and have an open-ended discussion on how we can better protect youth online. Check out our slideshow here.

Congratulations to cohort two of the NextGen Connect Program!  To apply for next year’s cohort, either as a youth leader or adult partner, sign up here.