Exploring youth engagement in a digital age
About a year ago i joined this forum to help with my degree, and ive had some interest in the findings, please find below the conclusion section of my major study and the recommendations to practitioners!
Conclusion and recommendations to practitioners
It has become clear through this research that social networking has several roles to play in both young peoples and practitioners lives. As we move into a world of endless new technology it is of the utmost importance that we utilise this resource and what it has to offer young people and to our professions.
The research has identified several issues which both young people and practitioners have highlighted in relation to social networking and its uses as a tool of engagement. The findings show that both parties are equally concerned about safety for both themselves and others. Practitioners are concerned about professional boundaries and how much contact they can have online. Whereas young people seemed to be concerned about their privacy and about how much information is shared on a public group.
It has been found that the success of a social networking site depends on the activity of users, therefore it is the responsibility of both young people and professionals to ensure that information is kept up to date and that discussions are taking place when necessary. Facebook and twitter were found useful as they both provided a good environment to create and share events and opportunities. Many of the key functions of organisations pages were to keep young people informed and to discuss issues on a relevant topic.
A majority of practitioners felt that their social networking site was successful as it met the expectations of what the organisations was trying to achieve. An important message for those who wish to start using social networking with young people is to know what role it’s going to play in the organisation.
This study aimed to provide answers for professionals using social networking sites, thus below are several recommendations which can help play a role for those wishing to set up a social networking site and those who are already utilising the online environment.
It is recoomended that youth workers should ensure that privacy and the rights of young people are protected at all times. Young people enjoy the informal ethos of Facebook with their friends and therefore we should ensure that we remember the foundations of which our work is based on, young people should be respected and their relationship should be a voluntary one online.
It is important to ensure that professional boundaries are in place so that both young people and practitioners feel safe. Some of the youth organisations recommended that rules and conduct online must be agreed with young people before setting up a Facebook page to ensure that there is no misunderstanding, in much of the face-to face work we do, we set ground rules; therefore we should do the same online. Within this agreement should be the right to keep each other’s lives private and to ensure that an online relationship is that of a working partnership rather than a friendship.
A further recommendation for practitioners is that they seek to improve their knowledge concerning social networking and internet safety. Training for professionals is becoming more readily available, as are resources for parents and young people. CEOP are a leading provider of free training on internet safety and can help equip the workforce to be prepared to deal with safeguarding issues and to play a key part in preventing them.
The final recommendation from this study is that there clearly needs to be more detailed research conducted into this specific issue and the researcher found so many themes arising which were difficult to include. Although this research has provided to interesting answers it is felt that there needs to be further research with a wider audience. More research into safeguarding and online grooming would be extremely useful so that practitioners can understand and learn how best to protect to the young people they work with.
Finally the culture of posting and conveying messages online would also be area that needs to be looked into, communicating without body language brings about misunderstandings and other issues.
Thanks so much for sharing this. Really great to see the findings that emerged from your work.
On questions around body language etc - did you come across the literature on 'Computer Mediated Communication' (CMC) - there's been a lot of exploration of these sorts of issues in general - but it is interesting to look at whether a youth work consideration of them would look different.
I look forward to hearing about ways in which your research influences your practice and others in the future :)
All the best