UKCCIS: The right responses are about informal education

BBC News Report on the UKCCIS Launch

Today saw the launch of the UK Council on Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) – making the launch of the Youth Work and Social Networking Final Report even more timely.

The BBC Article about the Council, set up to implement a recommendation from the Byron review, describes it’s work as:

to teach children about web dangers, target harmful net content and establish a code of conduct for sites featuring material uploaded by users.

Whilst the launch of the UKCCIS as a hub for action is a step forward – the big challenge ahead of it is to recognise the value of informal education and youth work approaches in contributing to the safety of young people online, and to adopt different approaches to promoting the safety of children and of young people.

Understanding informal education:
At the launch of the UKCCIS Gordon Brown said:

“The challenge for us is to make sure young people can use the internet safely and do so with the minimum of restrictions but the maximum of opportunities

But just as we would not allow them to go out unsupervised in playgrounds or in youth clubs or in swimming pools, so we must put in place the measures we need to keep our children safe online” (Source BBC News)

It’s crucial to remember however, that our responses to risks from playgrounds, youth clubs or swimming pools do not rely on education campaigns and the safe design of the spaces alone – but also from the skills of professionals who can support young people and who can respond to their needs and issues at the times the needs arise.

Our work on the Youth Work and Social Networking report suggests that investing in the skills of the staff who support young people in informal education contexts has a significant amount to offer in equipping young people to navigate the risks of the web, and to make the most of the opportunities that exist.

Our broad thesis is that whilst awareness campaigns provide the foundation for behaviour change – it is the supportive interventions and opportunities to explore risk issues and sensible peer norms within friendship groups and with responsible adults which can contribute most to increasing young people’s resources and resiliency in the online environment.

Children AND young people
It’s also crucial that the UKCCIS recognises that the issues for the safety of children, and the safety of young people (adolescents) are distinct and require different responses and approaches.

Negotiated not imposed
One of the most interesting part of the Youth Work and Social Networking research was the consultation day we held with young people in Devon over how they wanted safety policies to work.

It’s key for UKCCIS to find the right participation methods to ensure that codes of conduct for websites with user generated content are designed with the impartial input of young people – and that solutions are negotiated with the young users of sites and not imposed by industry.

Where next:
UKCCIS don’t have a web presence yet – but over the coming months it will be key for informal educational professionals to demonstrate how they can support young people to navigate risk. As Josie Fraser notes, UKCCIS still falls short of a coherent digital strategy for the UK – promoting digital media literacy across formal and informal education settings – but it can offer us an opportunity space to move forward with the important work of ensuring that young people are equipped to get the most of emerging and everyday digital technologies

Update: DowningStreet have just put up a video of the launch.

A veritable festival of youth and social media

The 26th and 27th September should see a veritable festival of events linked to youth participation, youth work and social media down in London. In fact, I wish I'd seen all the connections earlier to brand the whole lot as a festival.
Here's what is coming up:


  • Research launch of the Youth Work and Social Networking report (26th Sept, 2.45pm till 4.45pm) – the work that seems to have taken over a large chunk of the last six months of my time. Along with Pete Cranston, I'll be sharing what we've discovered, providing both a theoretical and practical account of how youth workers and other professionals working with young people can support young people to navigate the risks and make the most of the opportunities of online social networking, and opening up a discussion of different uses of social network sites in youth work.
    The research launch is free to attend, and if you want more details or to reserve your place, get in touch with ritak@nya.org.uk


  • UK Youth Online open space event (27th Sept, 10am till 5pm, followed by a trip to a local pub) – on Saturday 27th we'll be opening up the agenda even more to explore all things linked to young people and social media. Thanks to the kind support of DIUS this free event will provide space for practitioners, academics, innovators, funders, managers and others interested in the impact of new technology on work with young people to gather together and explore a wide range of issues through short presentations, discussions and demonstrations.
    For more details about UK Youth Online check out the network website, where you can also register to take part.

Please do pass details of all these events on to anyone who you think might be interested.

 

And what if you can't make the 26th and 27th September, or if London is a bit of a trek for you? Well, get in touch and let's get planning for some more local festivals exploring youth, technology and social media…

Three aspects of blogging to promote positive activities

I've just been interviewed for an article about how blogging can be used to promote positive activities. Using blogging as part of promoting youth work was only one part of one of the 7 reasons why youth workers should be blogging – but in the interview I found that it can be usefully broken down into three parts.
Three aspects of blogging to promote positive activities

  1. Blog for search – share information – many young people expect information from multiple sources – and they will expect information to be available online. If a young people have seen a poster or a flyer for your event then there is a good chance some will try and google search details of the event later on – either to check what it was all about, or to check the time/venue etc.

    A blog provides a very quick publishing platform to get information out there and to get it picked up by search engines. A dedicated blog for your youth club is going to be far easier to keep up-to-date than pages on a local authority website. And it's quite likely to perform better in search engines for particular queries about your events and activities.

    You can also take the headlines from a blog and get other websites and services to automatically 'pull in' that information – so that news from your blog is dispalyed in the places where young people are online (for example, you can pull the headlines into a Widget on MySpace, or to a Fan Page on Facebook, or you can set up a service to automatically text the latest headlines to young people who have subscribed…)


  2. Blog for young people – share media – at just about any event with young people there will be photos taken and video clips recorded – and it is highly likely these will be shared online. Rather than ban photos and videos at an event because of safety concerns – youth services can take on the role of providing safe online photo and video galleries from events – where images are only displayed with consent and where any young people can ask for their images to be removed if they wish.

    By becoming the destination for photos and videos from an event two things are possible:

    1. A service can justifiably ask young people to limit their own sharing of photos and videos in ways which may not be safe;

    2. A service can build an audience who come to see the photos and videos, but then find out about other activities and opportunities to get involved. (Although – don't forget to make sure you tell people the web address where they can access the media on your blog)


  3. Blog for you – consultation and conversation – once you've build a community around a blog with media and content attractive to young people – then you can start including blog posts that ask questions of young people, invite comments and help you to improve your services. You can share information about upcoming decisions that need to be made, or you can create blog posts that ask a question of young people – and you and they can use the comments feature on a blog to engage in conversation about the issues in question.

These three parts may even be seen as 'stages' of starting to blog to promote youth services – as whilst blogs provide an instant publishing platform, it does take time and intentional effort for them to build a regular readership and a community.

Perhaps we will have a session at the UK Youth Online unconference on the 27th September 2008 to explore blogging to promote positive activities. If you're interested then do come along. UK Youth Online is a free and co-created event – and you can find more details about it, or register to be part of it, here.

Over on the Youth Work and Social Networking blog

I've tried to keep the plethora of reflections and shared bits and pieces from the Youth Work and Social Networking project over on their own blog – but I'm aware some people have been expecting me to post them here also. So, here is a quick run-down of some of the posts, documents and resources you will find over on the Youth Work and Social Networking project blog.

There are also a number of others posts pointing to recent research and online resources.
The final report of the Youth Work and Social Networking project will be launched on th 26th September in London – so if you would like to be at that (or at the UK Youth Online un-conference the following day) then please do get in touch.