OK, so I just got back from the first ever UkYouthOnline UnConference and I have to say it was an excellent day! Organised by Tim Davies, around 70 people from various youth work, participation and technological backgrounds looked at the issues and opportunities of engaging with young people online. It was really exciting to see what and how others were doing.
I think I was pretty up to speed with the use of online media (others came to find out what was out there and how to use them), but I was really interested in it’s application. Some organisations were setting up their own network/websites, some were using existing ones, some were engaging with young people they already knew, while some were attempting to contact new young people online.
Personally, I came with question about how can we use social media to enhance the existing face to face relationships we have with young people? MAS phrased this better as “Why do we bother using social media?” We had some good discussions in our group about the danger of using the technology because it’s there rather than because we have a specific aim or purpose in mind. This is something I need to think about for my Facebook and Bebo groups and define exactly how these services can benefit my ongoing practice with young people (and not detract from it by invading their online space for example).
I was also encouraged that nearly everyone across the board seemed to be struggling with policy and guidelines for online activity. A few organisations were working on papers that will be uploaded to the UkYouthOnline site soon. The intention is to develop a wiki to discuss and develop guidance that can be used and adapted across the board.
I came away with loads of websites and links to follow (digitalyouthwork.com?) as well as some great connections with people who are exploring similar issues in engaging young people online. Keep an eye on UkYouthOnline (or search for ukyouthonline tags) to see the response and activity from other attendees!