Checklist for digital youth projects

[Summary: Draft of a new one page guide putting the critical questions approach to online safety into practice]

I’m heading to Coventry tomorrow to lead a training session in using social media for activism for young people involved in the DFID funded Youth For Fair Trade project. We’ll be exploring a whole range of social media tools that project can use to campaign online.

However, it’s important not only to equip young people with the skills to use social media, but we also need to talk about the skills to use social media safely. I’ll be including some elements from the ‘Critical Questions framework‘ I blogged about earlier this year, but, know that we’ll be tight for time on Sunday, and that leaving people with a aide-memoir is always a good thing – I’ve put together a draft one page ‘Social Media Checklist for safe and effective youth projects‘.

You can view it below, download the PDF here, and if you want to adapt and update it, as a word file here.

Like all the one page guides it is under a creative commons license to encourage you to take, remix and share back your updates. This is very much a draft, and so I would welcome your critical questions about it – and reflections on how it could be improved as a resource to support young people thinking positively and proactively about being sensible and safe as online actors.

Social Media Checklist for Youth Projects

Where are the practitioners sensibly addressing online safety?

danah boyd, US based researcher of all things social networking and youth, has put out a much needed call – looking to track down practice on-the-ground where professionals and volunteers working with young people are addressing online safety in their day-to-day work. As I’ve argued when talking about youth work and social networking it’s essential for all practitioners who work with young people to be aware of the internet as an element of young people’s lives, and then to think about how they might support young people to navigate risks and make the most of online opportunities – not by delivering scary presentations about online dangers – but by weaving in consideration of online safety to their regular practice. That might be through explicitly designed activities, or just asking the right questions at the right times.

Like danah, I’ve been talking a lot about the importance of this, but when it comes to finding good examples of it happening on the ground – I draw a blank. Not because it’s not happening – but because, as I discovered in the Action Research for the Youth Work and Social Networking Project, good innovative practitioners are often getting on with being practitioners – not creating case studies for researchers and policy makers. That said, I know a smattering of innovative practitioners do read or stumble across this blog from time-to-time, and hearing your/their stories about addressing online safety in a realistic and grounded way would make a real difference to the debate about how to best support young people on the web.

So – I’ll share with you danah’s call for input, and encourage you, whether you a are a practitioner working with young people, and including online safety in your work – however light-touch and occaisional  – or you know practitioners who address online safety in innovative ways, to drop in a comment – either on this blog post, or on danah’s original.

I need your help. One of our central conclusions in the Internet Safety Technical Task Force Report was that many of the online safety issues require the collective engagement of a whole variety of different groups, including educators, social workers, psychologists, mental health experts, law enforcement, etc. Through my work on online safety, I’ve met a lot of consultants, activists, and online safety experts. Through my work as a researcher, I’ve met a lot of practitioners who are trying to engage youth about these issues through outright fear that isn’t grounded in anything other than myth.

Unfortunately, I haven’t met a lot of people who are on the ground with youth dealing with the messiness of addressing online safety issues from a realistic point of view. I don’t know a lot of practitioners who are developing innovative ways of educating and supporting at-risk youth because they have to in their practices. I need your help to identify these people.

I know that there are a lot of people out there who are speaking about what these partitioners should do, who are advising these practitioners, or who are trying to build curricula/tools to support these practitioners, but I want to learn more about the innovative practitioners themselves.

Please… who’s incorporating sensible online safety approaches into their daily practice with youth in the classrooms, in therapy, in social work, in religious advising, etc.? Who’s out there trying to wade through the myths, get a realistic portrait, and approach youth from a grounded point of view in order to directly help them, not as a safety expert but as someone who works with youth because of their professional role? Who do I need to know?

(And if you’re a practitioner in the UK, or indeed from beyond the UK, who is exploring online safety and opportunity in your work with young people – do come and join fellow practitioners over in the Youth Work Online network…)

Article 13 and the miniLegends

alupton Twitter: Thanks to everyone for comments n support left at now closed class blog.I'm watching with interest on Twitter the unfolding discussion about the decision by the South Australia Department of Education and Children Services to ask for the closure of Al Upton's class blogs (the miniLegends).

Minilegends Blog

The miniLegends blogs were written by 8 and 9 year old students in Al Upton's class as part of their learning. Last year Al invited international edubloggers to offer to mentor members of his class by leaving positive comments on their individual blogs.

Sue Waters suggests the order to close the blogs was due to parental concerns over use of young people's photos:

What happened was a few parents became concerned over the use of student images on blogs and potential for cyberstalking because global adult mentors were interacting students. Al had followed all the right procedures and obtained parental consent.

Whilst ensuring young people's protection from significant harm is crucial, the United Nations Convention on the Rights balances protection, provision and participation rights – and as I watched the issues unfolding this morning I thought I should take a look to see what the convention might have to say. So, here's Article 13 from the UNCRC.

Article 13 (Freedom of Expression)

1. The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child's choice.

2. The exercise of this right may be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:

(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; or

(b) For the protection of national security or of public order , or of public health or morals.

Australia is a signatory to the United Convention on the Rights of the Child. It would be interesting to see how the Committee would respond to the sorts of limitations on young people's expression and information seeking that are becoming all to common because of parental or policy makers irrational fears of the unknown*.


(*I'm not saying all fears are irrational. There are rational fears and concerns. I'm only worried about the cases where fears that are actually irrational (i.e. don't stand up to rational scrutiny) are causing problems.

Government and young people online

I've just been in a session at BarcampUKGovWeb where we've been talking about how government provides information to young people, and involves young people in conversation with government (although we ran short on time to get onto that second and most important one). There's a lot to be talked about here – and 20 minutes only got us started. Below is a quick mindmap of what I gathered from the discussion:

Young people online

I'd be happy to share the mindmap with anyone else who was in the session who would like to add to it. And very keen to continue the discussion…