Skills for Youth Work in a Digital Age

Posted 5 Apr 2011

Online Youth Outreach - Skills for youth work in a digital age

Skills for Youth Work in a Digital Age

This workshop was to provide an opportunity for academics, educators, managers and practitioners involved in Youth Work to identify the key skills needed by youth workers in an age when young people’s lives are increasingly mediated through digital technology, social media and social networks. As part of the Youth Work Online Month of Action –

The workshop was to explore:

Prioritising digital skills – understanding how digital technology affects young people’s lives, working out how it changes the contexts and challenges of youth work, and identifying new forms of youth work practice using digital tools could fill whole degree courses – but in most cases, time to teach about digital youth work is limited. Through dialogue between workshop participants we will identify priority skills for different settings.

Approaches to education- with digital technologies and online landscapes changing so rapidly, what approaches work to educate and equip workers with the skills they need? What are the current gaps in education provision? What are the existing resources available? Where are the critical perspectives on digital technology and youth work? This element of the workshop will explore ideas and strategies for digital education for youth workers.

Resources, opportunities, challenges and collaboration potential – map out existing resources to support education and training around digital dimensions of youth work, as well as exploring current opportunities and challenges to bring digital skills and knowledge into the mainstream of youth work training and education.

Online Youth Outreach - Skills for youth work in a digital age

In the morning session in groups we mapped out the various contexts that digital youth work does or could take place with various different groups of young people. Reflecting on the various differentials of risk and opportunities within each of the different groups. The necessity to complete a ‘community’ mapping process of each group of young people to identify the ‘authentic’ needs, aspirations, concerns and opportunities when using digital media to engage, support or promote young people’s participation. One delegate describe this a the ’social locations’ online and offline of young people.

Online Youth Outreach

We then reviewed ‘where organisations/youth practitioners are now’ and aspirations for the ‘future’. I captured some film clips on delegates presenting their feedback. I do recommend you spend the time to watch this film clip, some great ideas and views.

The key future aspirations I came away from the activity:

Young people’s digital rights- to have access to computers in safe locations with support from youth practitioners who are competent and experienced in using social media so can advise appropriately on digital eSafety and promote young people digital media competencies. Young people understand their rights and informed consent is granted before youth practitioners engage with them online.

Legal and Liability- concise, factual and easy to understand guidelines and information on the possible legal and liability risks; posting of inappropriate images of a young person and these been ’shared’ by other young people, young person posting negative comments about a youth provision etc.

Critical and reflective theoretical models of digital youth practice- Qualitative and quantitative research to review do existing theoretical models of practice (CBT, solution focused therapy, transactional theory) apply in online digital youth outreach or do new theoretical models need to be developed. This in my view is essential to help framework digital youth work practice to enable critical reflection and evaluation for each online intervention and appropriate supervision.


Sangeet Bhuller- WISE Kids Shared her experiences on running social media training sessions in Wales. She advocated the need for youth workers and teachers to understand the ‘contextual’ development of the internet and social media to help practitioners to frame their understanding of how social network functions.

Jackie RaffertySocial Work Social Policy

Please check out the power point presentation.

Katie Bacon Online Youth Outreach powerpoint presentation
(Click on the image to download)

After lunch there were discussions about priority setting for digital media training, knowledge and experience requirement for practitioners to acquire to work and engage with young people in various digital media settings. There is still a huge need for basic computer skill training for some youth practitioners and senior managers. In my view there is still the challenge that some people in positions of power in local government and universities are making decisions on digital media practice without the knowledge or experience in social media to form informed choices/decisions in regards to policies, training and funding allocation. These decisions have wide and far reaching coincidences which stigmatizing and limits the support, opportunities and learning to vulnerable groups of young people in local communities. We are still pioneering, keep up the hard work.

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