Tim Davies has co-authored a report for the National Youth Agency about Youth Work and Social Media (pdf, 811kb).  It is an interim report so I hope someone accelerates the funding and allows him to press the pedal to the metal and get it finished because if only 29% of youth workers are able to access social media in a work setting they are seriously hampered in doing their job.

Social media was blamed for for some of the suicides in Bridgend and with report after report highlighting the dangers of networking sites, I find it amazing that 71% of youth workers can’t access these sites at work. 


Mike Amos-Simpson · 4th June 2008 at 3:33 pm

I think the report surveyed access to social networking sites (not social media). I think historically social networking sites have been blocked because they’re thought of as either time wasters or not productive in relation to “youth work” (young people spending hours on msn or using chat applications etc.) – at least this was the main reason at my last place of work. Others maybe do so for ‘safety’ reasons although what sense there is in that I don’t understand.
Whether access to social media sites is similarly restricted I don’t know but I imagine the answer is probably yes (I know some groups we’ve worked with have asked for films not to be uploaded to youtube because its blocked at their centres).
For social networking access I guess the argument about providing access would be either if you believe they can be used productively in young peoples development and/or if you think its important to help educate young people in using social networks safely & effectively.
Although there is a broader argument that blocking sites just isn’t the most effective method for supporting young people to use the web safely & effectively.
A point I’d make about my last employer blocking access from social networks, is that it didn’t prevent their public computers from having considerable amounts of inappropriate material downloaded onto them – in fact they got so bad that we had to stop using them on courses for fear that in the middle of a powerpoint some sort of pop-up would appear advertising “XXX Hot Dirty Women” (or similar!) (& yes it did happen, thankfully not to me!)

Shane McCracken · 4th June 2008 at 3:44 pm

My argument is that young people are using social media and networking sites and if youth workers are to be able to engage with them then access to those sites is important.
Online safety is one aspect and I’ve recently read releases where councils are employing blocking and monitoring software to ensure young people’s safety online. My view is that education of how to behave safely online is more important than merely blocking at one location, school. But it is also more difficult to do.

Tim Davies · 4th June 2008 at 5:39 pm

I’m definitely with you on that Shane.
We’ve got to go with a ‘capacity building first’ model. (Notice that training and resourcing comes last in Tanya Bryon’s list of recommendations – and even then is phrased as if it could be building the capacity of parents / organisations to block rather than support young people)
Blocking is for illegal content, or definitively age-inappropriate content with younger groups – but it shouldn’t be used to limit access to interactivity and spaces where young people’s lives are being played out.
Part of our (very simple at the moment as we’ve only got 15 days between two of us to work on it – but always open to exploring some more extensive work) practical research is in trialling education models that don’t need youth workers to spend hour with the technology – but mean that when confronted with it they do feel confident to do what they do best – and to talk with young people and explore the issues in a real way.
I’ll be trying out the first training session with Youth Workers next week – so hopefully will be able to blog something from that soon…

Shane McCracken · 4th June 2008 at 7:06 pm

I agree it is important that youth workers feel confident at least but surely so much more could be done.
Why aren’t more youth workers blogging, using Facebook and Bebo as part of their job to reach out to young people they wouldn’t necessarily come into contact with on a regular basis? It could be much more that feeling confident, it could be a powerful tool to help them do their job.

Shane McCracken · 5th June 2008 at 10:25 am

In fairness to Byron education rather than technical solutions to blocking the internet does seem to come through strongly.

Hilary · 16th June 2008 at 9:06 pm

As a local authority we’re just starting out on how we might use social media (especially the social networking sites) to see how we might engage with young people and use it as part of our work. I think that a large part of the issue is actually understanding all that is happening and how we might effectively use it.A lot of the youthworkers I’m talking to just don’t know or understand how we might use it. We’ve got some training lined up (with some young people joining us) and from that we’re going to develop our social media strategy. It does very much seem as though tecnology and young peoples use of it has grown rapidly and we haven’t taken that on board. I wonder how many of the University courses for youth workers are even mentioning online youthwork or networking sites as a way in which to work?

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