Tag Archives: research

Safe and effective social network site applications

[Summary: Inviting feedback on first public draft of working paper about developing social network site applications for young people that can be effective and engaging, whilst also promoting safety and limiting risk to young people (PDF)]

Update 18th May 2009: Version 1.0 of the paper posted here.

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:

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: sns)

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 paper which 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:

  1. Unpacking the reasons why we need to treat young people differently;
  2. Exploring the features of Social Network Sites which lead to both amazing opportunities, and potential risks;
  3. Clearly identifying the risks to young people within the Social Network Site space;
  4. 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.

So, if you’re exploring the use of Social Network Sites to engage young people, whether in positive activities or participation opportunities – or if you’ve got experience of e-safety or Social Network Site applications please do take a look at the ‘Safe and Effective SNS for young people’ working paper and share your reflections, questions and feedback.

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…
  • I’ll be leading an exploration of using applications for youth participation as part of the Local Government Information Unit Action Learning Set on SNS and Youth Participation. (N.B. Application deadline extended until 9th Jan 2009 in case you wanted to come along… but have not yet had chance to register…)
  • 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…

Blogging for professional development

Centre for learning

One of the 7 reasons I gave for getting youth workers blogging was to foster reflective practice. Michelle Martin offered her reflections in the comments about the role of blogging for professional development:

One thought that occurs to me though is that your point about blogs for professional development may be the best entry into blogging for people. It's a safe, low-risk way to start blogging. I think part of the resistance comes from feeling like you have to do this really public thing where you're blogging to market your organization and what if you say something people don't like or whatever? But if people are blogging to support their own learning–to reflect, etc., this might feel safer. It doesn't even have to be public for that matter. A tool like Vox would also give a way for people to blog both publicly with a network of other youth workers and privately for their own reflection, all on the same blog.

And since then I've heard from a number of trainee youth workers who are keen to get make use of blogging and social media to support their learning, development and community building.

Well, with fantastic timing, Michelle has launched into another learning challenge (it was Michelle's call to action on the 31-days-to-a-better-blog challenge that really encouraged me to be a more active blogger), this time focussing precisely on blogging for learning.

Michelle has put together a Wiki of 18 different styles of blog posts with examples that can be used to support learning, and will be writing a post in each style over the next two months. If you've been thinking about starting a blog, but haven't known how to launch into it, joining this learning journey could be a great way to take your first steps .

It's a journey I'll be joining, and particularly if you're a youth worker thinking about making a start blogging, it would be great to have your company along the way…

 

Photo Credit: Adult Education? by PatrickS

Help the Young Researcher Network find resources for teaching online research skills…

Young Researcher NetworkThe Young Researcher Network have just launched their programme of basic training for their network of 15 youth-led research projects (I created some resources for their launch conference in December last year) – and they're planning what training will come next. So far, with help from the Centre for Social Action they're going to be looking at:

  • the research process;
  • finding focus and defining a research question;
  • identifying a methodology;
  • considering the ethical implications of research.

But Darren and Antoinette from the Young Researcher Network also want to think about delivering training and support in online research methods for young people and I thought some readers here might be able to help them out with pointers to good resources, or some tips and tricks? They ask:

If you're a young person, perhaps as a young researcher, have you had any good training in how to use the internet well? Or have you just always known how to make use of the internet? Do you think you're an expert searcher – or are there things you want to know about?

And if you're involved in research – are there any good resources you can recommend for teaching good online research skills to the google generation, and supporting young people in online research?

If you think you could help – do drop them a comment on this post on their new blog – particularly as they're only just taking their first steps into the blosophere…

The statistical invisibility of children and young people

Age Group on surveys

How different is a 6 year old from a 15 year old?

And how different is a 36 year old from a 45 year old?

You will probably agree with me that the difference in the first case is a lot more significant than that in the second.

So how come the 36 year old and 45 year old are likely to find themselves getting their own age brackets on many surveys (are you aged: 25 – 35?, 36 – 45?, 46 – 55? etc.) when the 6 year old and 15 year old will most likely find themelves lumped together a in the 0 – 19 bracket?

Ok. Here are some possible reasons:

Image: 'clipboard' - www.flickr.com/photos/60364452@N00/264890460Reason #1: Relevance . We don't generally get 6 year olds to fill in surveys. And indeed, if your survey is about insurance product choice then I would suggest you're right to avoid burdening a child with questions about attitudes towards fiscal risk.

However – if you survey is about some relatively universal experience without a legal limit on who might be participating in it – like, for example, spending time in a community space, accessing the internet or feeling save (or not) crossing the road – then perhaps you should be including the 6 year old and certainly the 15 year old, in your survey.

Reason #2: Limited sample. We may suceed in surveying the 6 year old and the 15 year old, (and the 7 through 14 year olds) but we just don't manage to survey all that many of them compared to, for example, the number of 25 – 34 year olds we survey. So we put the 0 – 19 year olds together in a big category to give us a statistically significant group.

Reason #3: Skills. Carrying out a survey with children and young people can require specific skills and training that many researchers may lack.

Reason #4: Consent and ethics. There may be questions around the capacity of children and young people to give informed consent to taking part in a survey, and about whether the survey will raise questions on issues children should be protected from thinking about.

Do the reasons cut it?

Not really. Reason #1, 'Relevance', is important. It should tell us that as soon as a survey significantly covers issues that are relevant to young people they should be included in the survey data. Issues #2, 3 & 4 are ones we can and should work around.

Why does it matter?

Without including children and young people in the surveys and datasets being used by policy makers and practioners to make decisions on a day-to-day basis, we make children and young people 'statistically invisible'. And that can have a big (quite possibly very negative) impact on decisions made that affect children and young people's lives.