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…)

A manifesto for online youth work?

[Cross-posted from Youth Work Online here]

Audience Interaction via Skype
Audience Interaction via Skype

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

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!
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.

I’ve left comments on this post, but if you are a member then please do leave your comments over on the original post on Youth Work Online.