“How should professionals or volunteers working with young people use Facebook?”
There is no answer to that question. Or at least, no answer that doesn’t start with a fairly long list of ‘It depends’.
I often show this slide when talking about the need for clear policies in organisations that support staff to make effective use of social media:
The slide was prepared (and I always introduce it in this context) based on work exploring how Social Network Sites can be used by Youth Workers.
Almost always I get an interjection at this point in the presentation from a teacher or other youth-sector professional criticising the way this guidance suggests that workers may be interacting directly with young people online, when surely that can never be appropriate.
To which I have to re-emphasise that this guidance is specific to a youth work setting. It’s based on youth work values and, fundamentally, on an attempt to understand how different youth work relationships between young people and adults transfer into the online environment.
It is perhaps because of the centrality of ‘relationship’ in youth work theory that drives me towards stating this, but it seems far more useful to switch from the question ‘How should [teachers/youth workers/probation workers/sports coaches] use Facebook?’ to the question ‘Given the existing professional relationships between young people and their [teachers/youth workers/probation workers/etc.] offline, what would be appropriate for their interaction through [Facebook/Bebo/MySpace/any other social network]?’
Ewan McIntosh has been exploring again recently his belief that direct interaction by teachers with children and young people through Facebook or other social networks is not appropriate, and my intuitive sense of the teacher-pupil relationship suggests that Ewan is right. When it comes to a youth participation worker exploring social networks for engagement, then using Facebook might be appropriate, but a direct friend-relationship with young people may not be. Use of Facebook pages and groups may provide a means of engagement more analogous to offline participation relationships.
With a number of authorities and organisations development organisation-wide social media policies, emphasising the specificity of different workforces is more important than ever.
We need to always start from the specifics. From what a particular form of work involves, from the professional values involved, and from the relationships with young people (or others) before developing guidance, policy and practice. Rather than imposing top-down technology policy and strategy.
One of the strongest argument I can see for encouraging more youth blog blogging is the central role that ‘reflective practice’ should play in youth and community development work. In my own work I’ve found blogging to a key tool for my own reflective learning – with the added benefit of making it into shared learning – where I can benefit from the insights of others who read and comment on posts, either via blog comments, or face-to-face.
However, a recent e-mail from a youth worker about the ‘7 reasons why youth workers should blog’ post raised questions about what to do when online reflective practice runs up against issues of confidentiality:
[Blogging] is something we have thought about, for the reasons you listed, but have always come up against the concern over confidentiality. I don’t mean the obvious concern of revealing identities or specific case details, but the general concern of talking about real life young people without being able to check the content is OK with them, or even just simply running the risk that they may recognise themselves in what is being said and feel violated or unhappy about being talked about.
…one of the young people who sits on our advisory board made the point that someone thinking of coming to us, who went onto our website and saw us talking about the work done with other young people could be put off as they would think ‘they could talk about me or my case if i use this service’.
As most of the work I do is with groups, and not relating to very sensitive issues, this isn’t an issue I’ve often run up against directly in work with young people – but challenges of reflective learning and confidentiality are certainly something I’ve come up against as an independent consultant. Here are some of the principles I’ve tried to use:
Share general points of learning, not specifics
Whilst I often try and use a particular story to give context to a blog post, part of my reflective blogging is about drawing out general point from the experience. If I start writing a narrative blog post, and it strays into content which could be confidential, or which I’m not sure should be immediately public, then I’ll often change the headline to one more general, and rewrite the post to draw out the point of learning – rather than the origin of that learning.
With a few exceptions (and only for organisations) I’m either writing explicitly about someone or something, confident that I either have consent or that I am happy for the subject to know about and read the blog post in question.
Allusions to people or situations so that people could work out what something is about with enough background information are out.
Wait a while
Sometimes even a general learning point can be problematic if people involved will be able to work out the situation it is drawn from – and if this reveals information that people involved may wish is not shared widely.
In these cases, sometimes a blog post may end up in the draft folder for a while, either for the point of learning to be combined in with another post, or to be posted in the future – when sharing it isn’t such a sensitive issue.
Some things stay in the drafts
There are some posts which it is useful to write for purposes of reflective learning. But which it is not right to share (in most cases on this blog because they’re just not interesting enough…!)
Respect & constructive comment
I try not to blog anything which I wouldn’t be happy discussing with the people involved in the blog post – and to blog on the spirit of constructive comment rather than ranting or criticism.
In the particular case of setting up a blog for a youth service – it may be worth asking whether an organisational public blog is the right platform for all the reflective learning of practitioners. There are of course, 6 other reasons at least for youth work blogging…
How do you deal with the tensions between blogging on sensitive topics – and benefit from the shared learning potential of reflective blogging?
(Here endeth my blog post about blogging for 2009)
Some point just after the first BarCampUKGovWeb back in 2008 I floated the idea of a BarCamp, or an unConference to explore the ways in which organisations whose work involved young people could make the most of social media and new digital technologies. After a few false starts, that turned into UK Youth Online* – a gathering of over 60 fantastic folk one Saturday at the offices of DIUS in London where we had explored all sorts of elements of online youth engagement: tools and technologies; issues of safety; participation online; implications for youth workers; the social media game; and loads more. That event led to the growth of the Youth Work Online ning network, currently fairly quiet, but helping to carry on the conversations from our face-to-face event.
Since the 2008 unConference I’ve met a whole load of fantastic people working to explore and use social technologies in youth work, youth participation and outreach work with young people. From software developers and central government policy makers, to local authority web teams and front-line youth workers – and of course, many young people themselves – as volunteers, activists and innovators. However, in all these meetings, I’ve not come across a forum that brings together practitioners, social entrepreneurs, developments, policy makers and young people to get stuck into sharing their learning and building the sorts of informal and formal networks that will drive forward greater and more effective uptake of social technologies to make a difference in the lives of young people.
So – I though it might be time for another unConference. And this is the rather roundabout way of announcing: Connected Generation 2009 – unConference – exploring youth engagement in a digital age.
If your work involves young people, then understanding and engaging with social media and online technologies is a must. This event is an opportunity to explore big ideas, and practical realities of weaving the web into work with young people.
As an unConference, the exact programme is created on the day by the participants, who will convene conversations, provide demonstrates and share their insights. However, themes that are likely to be explored include:
Communicating with young people online – from promoting youth services and positive activities, through to hosting two-way dialogues with young people in online spaces.
Social networks & youth participation – how can Facebook, Bebo, MySpace and Ning be part of the participation workers toolbox? And how does social networking have the power to change the face of participation?
Digital inclusion for young people – making sure that all young people have the access to technology and the skills they need to get on in the digital age;
Practical action – how to make sure online engagement is based on safe-and-sound foundations; getting policies in place; and making sure the technology and staff skills are available to make the most of online engagement;
Hands-on learning – exploring different social media tools that you can use in your work, and sharing tips with other participants about the best way to use them;
Bring your own sessions!
An unConference is created by the participants – and it works best when everyone comes prepared to offer a session. Your session could be a short presentation of a project you have recently worked on using digital media for youth engagement; or it could be a topic for discussion; or an issue you want to get the insights of others on.
When you register you have the opportunity to suggest a session you may offer.
How the day works
If you’re never been to an unConference before and are wondering what to expect – here is a rough outline of what the day might look like:
10.00am – Arrive, coffee and introductions
10.30am – Suggesting Sessions – participants will be invited to announce and introduce sessions they would like to run during the conference. These will be assigned to a time-slot and break-out room. There will probably be 6 break out rooms, allowing 30 different sessions to take place during the day.
11.00am – Parallel Session 1 – some of the sessions just announced will take place and you can choose which to take part in.
11.45 – Parallel Sessions 2 – more sessions taking place
12.30 – Lunch
13.15 – Parallel Sessions 3 – more sessions taking place
14.00 – Parallel Sessions 4 – more sessions taking place
14.45 – Break and review – A change to check if any new ideas for sessions have arisen throughout the day so far, and to plan in a few extras
15.00 – Final sessions
15.45 – Wrap and close
You will get to take part in at least five sessions on key topics in youth engagement and new technology. If you find a topic you want to discuss is not being covered, you have to opportunity to suggest a new session to explore it – and the facilitators will do their best to make your new session idea take place.
We’ll probably end the day at a local coffee shop or pub for those who can stay in London a bit longer.
Who is behind it?
The 2009 unConference is being organised by Tim Davies as a voluntary project.
The venue has been kindly supplied by DIUS, arrange for by Steph Grey.
Other volunteers will be involved on the day. Check http://www.connectedgeneration.info for more details.
We welcome sponsorship to help us cover the costs of the event. Sponsors have the opportunity to display materials at the event and to place items in the conference bag – as well as to feel good about making a great event take place!
If you’ve got any questions then drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org
or give me a call on 07824 856 303
*Note: The 2008 event was not associated in any way with the charity UK Youth, and at their request we are not longer using the ‘UK Youth Online’ title for future events.
[Summary: Practical questions to use in e-safety education when working with social media and social networking sites]
Later this month the House of Lords will be spending two and a half hours discussing young people and social networking sites in a debate initiated by Lord Toby Harris. As Shane McCracken has pointed out, a focus on “the adequacy of safeguards to protect [young people’s] privacy and interests” risks as debate leading towards legislation to restrict and control how social network sites function or young people’s use of them. However, even if Shane’s more hopefuly scenario of “increased awareness about the need to educate young people and parents about internet privacy issues” results, we could still end up heading in the wrong direction.
Far too often e-safety education places it’s focus on communicating ‘safety messages’ which are either counter-intuitive to the active social network using young person (‘don’t share any personal information online’) or which end over-detailed, complex or in contradiction with the way social network sites operate (‘use a nick name’ – ‘but it asks for a real name’). Plus, being aware of a safety message and putting its content into practice are two very different things.
In a project I’ve been working on for the Brent Local Safeguarding Children BoardE-Safety Subcommittee we’ve tried to explore how, instead of a focus on safety messages, we can use critical questions* to structure education about safe use of social media, whilst promoting the opportunities that new technologies offer at the same time. Using a critical questions approach can enable professionals to facilitate young people’s own exploration ofsafe and effective uses of new media, without the professional needed to be a new-media expert.
Here’s the current working draft of our question-bank: All these questions were designed be asked in the context of some form of purpose driven online-communication – such as using a blog, social network or social messaging tool to run a campaign on a local issue. The questions are divided into six sections.
1) Think about: the idea
What are you trying to communicate?
2) Think about: intended audience
Who are you doing it for?
Who might also be interested in what you have created/posted/shared?
How long do you want it to be available online for?
Do you want to allow others to copy and remix it? Or should it be covered by copyright?
3) Think about: the impact of the information or media you are sharing
What difference do you want it to make?
What other impact could it have?
Could anyone get upset because of it?
What good things could happen because it it? What bad things could happen?
4) Think about: identity Thinking about how you have/will share this information or media:
Is it/will it be linked to personal information about you? Who can see that information?
Do you just have one identity online, or are you a different person in different spaces?
5) Think about: interaction Thinking about information or media that you have shared:
Who are you connecting with through it? Do you know them? Is it ok if you don’t know them?
Can people leave comments and feedback on it?
How would you respond to a comment from someone you don’t know?
How would you respond to a comment that said something hurtful or aggressive to you, or to a friend?
6) Think about: each other
What would you do if a friend shared a photo or video of you online that you didn’t want shared?
What would you do if you had shared a photo of someone and they asked you to delete it?
What would you do if someone you know was spending all their time talking to someone online who they have never met?
What would you do if you were worried about your friends being bullied?
Using critical questions
Whilst these questions don’t give explicit safety messages – in encouraging young people to develop their own understand and literacy with digital tools they are designed to act as a vehicle for exploring safety messages. In Brent I’m hoping that, with continued development, they will form the backbone of a programme encouraging young people to develop their digital literacy whilst creating and sharing online content about their local area.
However, I believe that moving from a ‘safety messages’ to a ‘critical questions’ and a ‘literacy building’ frame of engagement with social networking and social media also has other implications:
It suggests that instead of placing restrictions on young people’s access to social network sites, or seeking to control the activities young people can engage in on social network sites, we should look to the design of online social networking environments to ensure that they encourage their users to consider, rather than ignore, key critical questions about what will happen to information and media they share. Whilst it may take government pressure before the big networks build safety and ethics into the core of their designs, we can explore creative ways to inject critical literacy building features in social networking platforms already.
Some questions for you
I’ve not yet had chance to pilot and evaluate the critical questions framework in depth – and I’m keen to make sure it continues to develop to be as useful as possible in ensuring young people take up online opportunities in safe and effective ways. I would really value feedback from anyone working on e-safety:
In your experience, how well equipped are the young people you work with to respond to these sorts of critical questions about their online activity?
Are there other key questions you would add to get young people to consider issues not raised above?
How would these questions work with different age groups? In our experience is there an age range for whom safety messages, rather than critical literacy building, is the only option?
*Critical questions – as in ‘constructive criticism’ or ‘questions that make you think and re-evaluate activity or behaviour’.
Late last year I had the pleasure of speaking a couple of times with Anne Õuemaa and her tear from Tartu’s youth service in Estonia as they were putting together their ‘Youth Worker in the Cyber Jungle’ conference. I even had the chance to present to the conference via Skype and to talk to some of the Tartu youth work team afterwards about plans they are developing to create local social networks where interaction is encouraged to boost young people’s self esteem through affirmation from peers.
True to a commitment to shared learning, the notes from the Tartu conference are now online, and you can find them all (in english) here.
As I browse through the conference notes I found ‘Guides of online youth work’. But as I browsed the 16 points drawn from the conference they struck me not so much as guidelines but almost as a manifesto for youth work and the web. You can read the PDF here, or, take a look below and share your thoughts on this embryonic manifesto…
International Youth Work Conference „Youth Worker Found in Cyber Jungle“
November 18-19, 2008 at Dorpat Convention Centre in Tartu
POSSIBILITIES AND GUIDELINES OF ONLINE YOUTH WORK
On the basis of conference materials
An active participant probably got a lot of new thoughts from the conference about
online youth work, why do we need it and where to start. To help you remember all
the things you have learned the conference team has prepared an overview of
possibilities and guidelines of online youth work. Would you like to add anything
here? Have a great time reading and implementing what you have learned!
1. First of all you have to get over the ancient belief that adults know better
than youth themselves what is good for youth! Get to know the world of
the new generation! The new generation consists of young people who
demand and expect openness, honesty, constant innovation and development.
They think differently from their parents. If for parents the Internet is another
world, then for youth it is the World.
2. Use new technological means in a new way when working with youth!
New technological means need to be used in a new way. There is a danger of
representatives of the old generation falling for old methods while using
means of new media. This is not very helpful because old methods don’t work
with new means. Previously used communication channels enabled to create a
situation where information was held by one person who presented it to others.
However, the Internet works slightly differently as a communication channel –
there are no hierarchies there, information may be got right from the source
and it is selected on the basis of genuineness. The main communication on the
Internet takes place between individuals.
3. Take into account that today it is easier to be in the same network with
youth than ever before! Virtual networks start having an impact on
communication, and an assessment presented by an individual may acquire
monetary value. As mentioned before, the structure of virtual communication
networks is no longer hierarchical. The parents of a youth in a communication
network are on the same level as the youth’s friends.
4. Get to know the life in virtual worlds! Get to know the principles of
communication in virtual worlds and use them when working with youth!
Youth and the Internet will go together now and forever, and all kinds of
youth work should be based on the Internet.
5. Get to know the possibilities of information technology and dangers
arising from them! Remember that life is constantly changing! If you want to
cope and keep your knowledge up to date, you have to move towards life!
6. Use the Internet environment in work with youth keeping their needs and
interests in mind! If we are unable to generate adequate materials in Estonian
on the Internet, then the current generation will not feel sad about it, they will
manage their business in English from then on. If we are unable to generate
enough knowledge and entertainment on the Internet, then youth will use the
knowledge and entertainment produced by others. The only way is to change
with the times and to go to a place with youth work where youth already is and
try to provide them the information which is interesting and important to them.
7. Tell youth about possibilities and dangers of the Internet and teach them
how to avoid dangers by using the possibilities!
8. Teach youth some source critical attitude, i.e. how to distinguish valuable
information from less valuable! Digital nomads do not need as much
information as they need help finding the information, assessing its reliability
and interpreting it.
9. Support involvement of youth! The new generation has not grown up in
front of TV. As communication on the Internet is always two-sided, they have
been able to have a say in things and express their opinion since they were
children. That is what involvement is all about. The concept of the Internet
favours involvement. Youth get involved because it is interesting for them.
Create conditions in virtual worlds so that youth could get involved and create
content in respect to subjects that matter to them!
10. Turn the web environment you use for working with youth into the one
which favours intercultural learning! Create possibilities for presenting
different cultures on the Internet! Translate the information into the mother
tongue of the users! This is how information is transferred from one
community to another and they can get to know each other better.
11. Teach youth, including youth with special needs and other minority
youth, how to present themselves positively (on the Internet), i.e. how to
play the cards so that it suits best for the youth! In the long run we will be
communicating with persons not a colour of someone’s skin or a wheelchair.
12. Develop the computer park of your youth centre and create possibilities
of communication in virtual networks for youth, regardless of their
mother tongue, cultural background, special needs, possibilities, etc.
13. Give a child the freedom to test what he has learned on the Internet!
Create a trusting relationship so that the child can turn to you when he has
questions! Just like you don’t follow your child in streets to check, if he is
crossing the street with a green light, in the same way you don’t have to check
on your child on the Internet all the time.
14. Use means of the Internet and virtual worlds when communicating with
youth and motivate them to communicate and act in real life, too!
Although virtual realities may be important, nothing can replace real contact
with a person. Online youth work supplements youth work in real life but it
cannot replace it.
15. Support the developing of self-concept and self-confidence of a youth and
his ability to put his foot down because this is ensures coping in all areas
of life, including virtual worlds.
16. When planning your resources, please take into account that online youth
work takes time and commitment and the work will never end! Improve
yourself constantly and be a role model for youth and your colleagues! All
virtual channels only work if they have a purpose and if their creators use
them to exchange their everyday messages.
For the Plings project – concerned with promoting positive activities to young people – Social Network Sites (SNS) offer amazing opportunities. One of the main ways people find out about positive activities (the football club, dance group or arts society for example) is through word of mouth. So if you can feed information about positive activities into SNS, and increase the flows of information about positive activities through the networks of young people already active there, you could potentially have a big impact on young people’s awareness of activities they could take part in.
Take a look at the slidecast below to get an idea of how a Social Network Site application could work:
Of course, local authorities and professionals working with young people have a duty not only to make sure young people are aware of the positive activities available to them, but also a duty to keep young people safe from harm – and Social Network Sites can be places of risk as well as of opportunity. Which is why public and third-sector organisations engaging with SNS shouldn’t just copy the ‘viral marketting’ and often aggressive tactics of commercial SNS application builders – but need to develop a clear ethical and risk assessment framework for engaging with Social Network Sites.
I hope that this working paperwhich I’ve put together for the ISP/Plings project can go some way to starting off that development.
‘Safe and effective SNS applications for young people: considerations in building social networking
applications for under 19s’ aims to build a coherent foundation to support public and third-sector engagement with SNS through application building by:
Unpacking the reasons why we need to treat young people differently;
Exploring the features of Social Network Sites which lead to both amazing opportunities, and potential risks;
Clearly identifying the risks to young people within the Social Network Site space;
Proposing three levels of response that should lead to safe and effective application building;
The document also includes an outline risk assessment framework.
The three responses proposed are:
Abiding by ethical principles – and designing applications on the basis of principles derived from law, a respect for young people’s rights, and existing principles from professional practice;
Having a clear risk assessment in place for all projects – to make sure potential risks are identified and design decisions or resources put in place to limit potential harm to young people;
Building safety in – and creating applications which empower young people and encourage general safe online behavior.
Exploring further This first public draft of the paper is hopefully just a starting point of a deeper exploration on building positive SNS applications. In particular:
The ISP/Plings project will be seeking to operationalise some of the learning in this paper, so it’s proposals, and the feedback and comments on it should have an opportunitity to be explored in practice over the first half of next year…
If there is enough interest – then I’d love to host a seminar on SNS applications and youth engagement early in 2009 – exploring both this paper, and emerging practice from the field. If you would be interested in taking part do drop me a line (tim at practicalparticipation dot org dot uk) or leave a comment on this blog post.
All comments and feedback on the paper are most welcome. Again, e-mail or comment below…
The last couple of weeks have seen some great activity on the emerging youth work web:
The Federation for Detached Youth Workers have set up a Ning social network at http://detached.youthworkonline.org.uk where they’re sharing video content from their latest conference and fostering some key discussions about the future of street based youth work;
The Critically Chatting Collective (who I may not always agree with… but whose critical perspectives always provide food for thought) have made the move to a WordPress blog at http://criticallychatting.wordpress.com/ making it easier to keep track of voices of youth work dissent.
I like to try and keep up to date with the latest news about goings on in the Youth sector. I’ve got a dashboard page in my NetVibes homepage devoted to the latest information on youth issues and initiatives – particularly useful for sparking ideas about youth participation or promoting positive activities.
One of the best sources for news about young people related news is The National Youth Agency’s press clippings service (Youth Issues News), which serves up a dose of the latest headlines every day. Frustratingly though, it’s not available as an RSS feed to slot nicely into my news dashboard – so, with a littlehelpfrom folkon twitter, I’ve used Dapper.net to create my own RSS feed from the NYA press clippings.
I thought other’s might find it useful as well, so if you want to use it, the simple copy this link here into your RSS readerand (if it all works alright) get daily updated headlines of young people-related news.
[Summary: Using Moo.com to make workshop resources]
(This post is mainly for those who have spent far too long laminating little bits of card late at night in preparation for a workshop the next day…)
I’ve used variations on the Social Media Game in workshops before. The game, which works by setting scenarios, and getting workshop participants to explore how they would use different tools or approaches to respond to those scenarios is a really effective way to encourage knowledge sharing and practical learning in a session.
However, preparing the game cards for a workshop always turns into one of those nightmare jobs. Simply printing them on paper or card isn’t enough – they’re too flimsy – and it’s always surprising how much the quality of a resource affects people’s interaction with. So, up until now – that’s always meant an evening of laminating little bits of printed paper to create good quality cards. And I know I’m not the only one who suffers this small but significant laminating challenge – @davebriggswife has rendered great services to social media in this country through laminating little bits of social media game card.
So, this time, as I started putting together the ‘Social Network Game’ for the Federation of Detached Youth Workers’ conference next Friday I though I’d try something different. And this morning a set of wonderful ‘Social Network Game’ postcards arrived on my doormat courtesy of Moo.com.
All I needed to do was to create each of the cards as an image, upload them to Moo, pay a few quid, and ta-da – high quality postcard-size workshop resources ready to go.
Why bother blogging this?
Well, asides from trying to save others who loose evenings to the laminating machine – I’m really interested by the potential that Print on Demand solutions like that of Moo.com can offer for:
Creating high quality resources – I’ve always been struck by how having good quality resources for workshops affects people’s responses. But often getting things professionally printed for a one-off workshop just isn’t viable… but can be with Print on Demand.
Resource sharing – Using the Moo.com API I could provide an easy way for anyone else to order a set of the Social Network Game cards I’ve designed. (In fact, once I’ve tested them out in a workshop I might try and create a set for others to get hold of…)
Promoting positive activities – Could the Information and Signposting project make use of the positive activities data and multi-media it’s collecting to make it really cheap and easy for activity providers to order promotional postcards to hand out?
Definitely something I’m keen to explore more. Would be great to hear about any other ideas or experience that you have…
If you prefer listening to a presentation over reading a report (PDF) – then you can catch some of the key learning from the Youth Work and Social Networking project in this video from Tim speaking at the Wise Kids conference in Swansea during October.
You can find the Video here. Choose ‘Workshop B’ from the Playlist, and then select the presentation labelled ‘Tim Davies’ to watch.
This video also introduces a new way of looking at the workforce development aspect of the Youth Work and Social Networking final report – exploring different youth work responses to Social Network Sites through the stories of four different youth workers.
Plus – whilst you’re looking at the webcast – you can enjoy many other presentations from the Wise Kids conference – including a great Key Note by John Davitt about new media tools for education and learning during the morning sessions.