Special Issue — Beyond Digital Youth: Understanding the Contexts and Consequences of Youth’s Digital Experiences


In 2006, the MacArthur Foundation launched a $50 million initiative to help determine how digital media are changing the way young people learn, play, socialize, and participate in civic life. The research that resulted from this initiative provided foundational insight into the complex interweaving of young people’s digital and non-digital experiences, and pointed to impacts on youth’s relationships, learning, and sense of self, among other experiences (Ito et al., 2009, 2010; James et al., 2009; Jenkins et al., 2006). What have we learned in the intervening decade and a half? How has research in the area of digital media and learning and related fields evolved as new technologies come online and the socio-cultural contexts of youth’s lives change? How have researchers been examining the issues and opportunities of access to and use of digital media and associated digital literacies for the advancement of learning, development, and civic engagement?

This special issue centers the experiences and perspectives of youth as they engage with the technologies that permeate their daily lives. We seek work that investigates young people’s technology-based information practices and learning experiences, with a particular focus on how digital technologies interact with the broader contexts of youth’s lives (see Bulger et al., 2021; Ito et al., 2020; Levinson & Barron, 2018; Metzger et al., 2015; Subramaniam et al., 2019, 2020). Our definition of youth is intentionally broad — from birth through emerging adulthood (approximately age 25) — with the intent that this special issue will provide an equally broad perspective on the diverse ways that youth interact with and incorporate technology into their lives. We aim to capture the myriad frameworks and lenses that scholars and practitioners may utilize to examine the meaning of digital youth, as well as the challenges, opportunities, and solutions to designing, developing, and assessing digital experiences for and with youth. Examples may include justice-oriented frameworks, practice theories, learning frameworks, sociotechnical lenses, and others as appropriate to the topic of study.

We welcome contributions that examine any type of setting that plays a role in the ecology of information and learning for youth, such as schools, libraries, museums, community centers, virtual spaces, home, shelters, prison, and others. We seek submissions from a broad range of disciplines, including information science, the learning sciences, human-computer interaction, communication, and sociology. We particularly welcome papers that include scholars and educators from different disciplinary backgrounds - bridging theory and findings across different fields, leveraging a range of disciplinary methodologies in their work, and examining challenges and solutions from multiple vantage points and perspectives. We welcome original research reports in addition to systematic literature reviews, general reviews, and case studies.

Potential areas of interest include (but are not limited to):

  • youth’s perspectives on technology’s role in their lives
  • families living and learning with technology
  • emerging digital literacies for the development of youth information practices and learning experiences
  • designing technology experiences that support youth’s information practices and learning experiences
  • asset-based approaches in the design of technology experiences for youth
  • building and brokering stronger connections and pathways across multiple technology experiences
  • assessment and/or robust models of evaluation of technology experiences for youth
  • the social, cultural, economic, and political contexts of youth’s technology experiences
  • ethics and privacy-related issues of youth’s technology experiences
  • development and implementation of policies related to youth’s technology experiences


Katie Davis, [email protected]

Associate Professor

Information School

University of Washington

Mega Subramaniam, [email protected]


College of Information Studies

University of Maryland


(1) Bulger, M., Madden, M., Sobel, K., & Davison, P. (2021). The missing middle: Reimagining a future for tweens, teens, and public media. Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.

(2) Ito, M., Horst, H. A., Bittanti, M., Herr Stephenson, B., Lange, P. G., Pascoe, C. J., & Robinson, L. (2009). Living and learning with new media: Summary of findings from the digital youth project (p. 128). The MIT Press.

(3) Ito, M., Baumer, S., Bittanti, M., Boyd, D., Cody, R., Herr-Stephenson, B., ... & Tripp, L. (2010). Hanging out, messing around, and geeking out. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

(4) Ito, M., Arum, R., Conley, D., Gutiérrez, K., Kirshner, B., Livingstone, S., ... & Watkins, S. C. (2020). The connected learning research network: Reflections on a decade of engaged scholarship. Connected Learning Alliance: Irvine, CA, USA.

(5) James, C., Davis, K., Flores, A., Francis, J. M., Pettingill, L., Rundle, M., & Gardner, H., (2009). Young people, ethics, and the new digital media: A synthesis from the GoodPlay Project. The MIT Press.

(6) Jenkins, H., Purushotma, R., Weigel, M., Clinton, K., & Robison, A. J. (2006). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture. John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

(7) Levinson, A. M., & Barron, B. (2018). Latino immigrant families learning with digital media across settings and generations. Digital Education Review, (33), 150–69.

Metzger, M., Erete, S., Barton, D.L., Desler, M., Lewis, D.A. (2015). The New Political Voice of Young Americans: Understanding Youth Civic Engagement. Education, Citizenship, and Social Justice. 10(1), 55-66.

(9) Subramaniam, M., Pang, N., Morehouse, S. & Asgarali-Hoffman, S.N. (2020). Examining vulnerability in youth digital information practices scholarship: What are we missing or exhausting? Children and Youth Services Review. 116.

(10) Subramaniam, M., Kumar, P., Morehouse, S., Liao, Y. & Vitak, J. (2019). Leveraging funds of knowledge to manage privacy practices in families. Proceedings of the 82nd Annual Association for Information Science & Technology Conference. 56(1), p. 245–254.

Information and Learning Sciences is a peer-reviewed journal that publishes interdisciplinary research within information science and the learning sciences / education sciences. For additional journal information, see: https://www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/journal/ils

Submission deadline: March 1, 2022

Acceptance decisions based on peer review: April 30, 2022

Revised drafts due: May 31, 2022

Issue publication: September/October, 2022

Submission Guidelines

Submissions should comply with the journal author guidelines. See https://www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/journal/ils#author-guidelines

Submissions should be made through ScholarOne Manuscripts, the online submission and peer review system. For registration and access, see: http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/ils