Tag Archives: policy

Your professional approach to social networking should be based on your professional context and values

“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:
Slide on Safe and Sound Foundations

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.

Post your policy: e-safety, online youth work, e-participation

[Summary: Towards a pack of practical guidance for youth workers and participation workers using Social Network Sites]

I’ve just shared a copy of my latest attempt at putting together guidance notes for youth sector professionals exploring safe and effective engagement with social network sites, created as part of a series of training for youth services and other youth sector organisations that I’m currently preparing to pilot*.

You can grab a copy of the five-page document over on the Youth Work Online website. But, rather than just read the notes I’ve put together – I would love it if you could share any existing e-safety and e-participation policies or guidance you’ve put together in your organisation. There has a been a lot of discussion in the ‘Policies, guidelines and boundaries for interacting online‘ thread on Youth Work Online about what a good policy or guidance note might look like – but as yet we’ve had no draft policies or notes shared in full. It’s time we changed that.

*If your organisation might be interested in piloting a one-day workshop on ‘Safe & Effective use of Social Network Sites in Youth Work/Participation Settings’ then do drop me a line.

(Update: It seems some Local Authorites have trouble accessing the Youth Work Online website (and some even have trouble accessing this blog…). If that is preventing you accesing the document mentioned in the post above, or preventing you sharing a policy or document you would like to share, drop me a line…)

Online video for policy and participation: discussion starters

Common Craft Video

A quick pointer to two interesting sets of online videos that could be useful to youth workers and participation workers:

Youth-led media makers Catch 21 Productions have a YouTube channel where this week they've shared some short 'newsbite' video inputs on current policy issues. Nothing flashy. Just a really well scripted video perfect to introduce the issues in a group discussion. Here's their newsbite on sex education…

You can find more of the newsbites over here. And with YouTube you can subscribe to the channel to get updates by e-mail when new videos are available – meaning that if Catch 21 keep up the great work you can always have a video on hand for help exploring contemporary topics with any youth groups you are working with.

And I've recently discovered that explanation experts Common Craft not only offer the low-down on social media tools, but have also turned their technique to explaining School Finance in Calafornia. .

Ok, so unless you are in Calafornia this particular video may not be very useful to you – but it certainly raises questions for me about ways this style of video could provide stimulus and context for deeper consultation on complex issues.

What do you think? Have you seen other good examples of online video that could be used in youth work and participation work contexts?

(This post has two embedded videos in. If you're reading this in an e-mail update or an RSS reader you may not see the videos. Simply click through the title to the full post to view the videos.)