I ran a workshop at Friday's Connected Generation Conference
looking at Ethics and ICT when working with young people.
Often when we think about how practitioners can engage with social technology, we think about 'policies' and 'procedures'. However, in the workshop we stepped back to look at the guiding ethical principles that practitioners base their work on - and how these apply to digital environments.
As we came up with a list of ethical principles it was clear that, with practitioners from different backgrounds (youth work, social work, youth arts, healthcare, teaching etc.) there was not a single list of ethical principles, but instead an overlapping set of principles including:
(I forgot to pick up the full flip-chart of principles, so if anyone from the session can remember others, please do add them here)
- Voluntary engagement
Some notes from each of the scenarios are below:
#1: Young people ask to play World of Warcraft at the Youth Centre
- World of Warcraft is a massive multiplayer online game.
- You have to pay for subscriptions, so there might be concerns about whether young people without Internet access at home can afford the subscription.
- The youth centre would need to consider whether it could pay the subscription and share it with a group.
- If World of Warcraft was seen to be a negative space or risky (lots of young people might share personal details in the game chat etc.) then perhaps the youth centre could set up an alternative and free multiplayer online game.
- Alternatively, workers could form a guild and play the game with young people, using it as an opportunity for promoting informal learning.
- Things that took place in the game could provide the basis for discussions in 'offline' youth work sessions
#2: Your manager asks you to consult young people on commission a new service via Facebook
- Whether or not commissioning using Facebook is appropriate depends on the issue
- There are concerns about the ethics of Facebook
- It is exposing people's content publicly to make ££
- Inappropriate advertising for young people?
- Targeted advertising
- Would need to think about the times a service is available, and times taken to provide services through Facebook
- Will there be a 24/7 youth service?
- What resources will be available to offer a good service?
- Will it be under-used by workers because of time constraints - it's all too time consuming!
- A number of ethical issues arose around using Facebook as a tool
- Need to protect people's privacy
- But more of the principle issues were around the participation and engagement process itself:
- Need commitment to give feedback to young people
- Commissioning process must be accountable to young people
- There must be capacity to act upon the outcomes - based on dialogue between service users and commissioners
- Young people need space to build on participation and create a pathway to move forward.
#3: An under 13 becomes a fan of your project's page on Facebook
- The Facebook terms of service say you must be over 13 to use the service
- But this is not an 'ethical' or necessarily 'evidence based' rule, but is down to US law
- Would you know if someone was under 13?
- They have to lie about their age to sign-up and so their profile might show a different age;
- You could tell from seeing some profiles that they are under 13;
- We don't want to encourage under-13s to join Facebook - but can't just ban then from being member of a page
- In offline youth centers age-limits are often slightly fuzzy. 12 year olds let into teenagers youth club as long as they behave. The lines are negotiated not black and white.
- We would encourage young people to set privacy settings well.
- We would need to think about the differences between fan pages, group memberships and friends in Facebook - and explore the appropriateness of each in different contexts
- Make sure there are other ways for young people to find information online instead of just going to your Facebook page.
- Message them about Facebook & responsible data security.
- Signpost people to other spaces outside of Facebook.
#4: A young person you have been working with contacts you via MSN for sexual health advice
This group discussed an wide range of issues, but I've only managed to capture a few from the flip-chart.
- MSN Chat - Work or personal?
- Accessibility of service - out of hours?
- Professionalism - boundaries
In the workshop time available we didn't go back over the group discussions to look at which ethical principles were most important, and how they were being interpreted. However, it was clear that it was only possible to apply ethical principles well with an understanding of the potential ways the technology could be used, and when the technology had appropriate features.
For example, if you're not able to message people who become a fan of your page on Facebook then applying a principle of promoting the safety of young people can be tricky when a 13-year old becomes a fan of the profile.
A small team involving DC10 Plus, Practical Participation, University of Plymouth and University of Sheffield have been putting together a funding bid to develop more guidance around ethics, ICT and young people - and we hope to be able to share more of that project in the Autumn. Reflections from workshop participants are encouraged in the comments below...