Youth social media realities
One of the most important principles of youth work is to be where the young people are. When Facebook was growing in popularity among young people, youth workers were still stuck on discussing pros and cons of interacting and engaging with young people on Facebook. Now, when finally youth workers are there, online and ready to engage using Facebook, a number of articles point out that teens are leaving Facebook and favor other social media channels.
Jukka Weissenfelt, a keynote speaker working at eBrand pointed out that “youth trends of using social media change every year.” Therefore it is important to have enough flexibility and ability to fastly adapt youth work policies and services to be up-to-date. This may be a challenge, considering that youth work planning and implementation processes often stretch out to span 2 to 4 year cycles. According to eBrands study of how young people use social media in Finland, individual young people are unlikely to drastically change their usage habits of social media in a year, but 2 to 4 years is an entirely other story.
Youth work organisations can (and should) implement social media practices and services based on current youth media trends and realities. However they need to be aware that their policies and practices should be flexible enough to adapt to changing trends. Rapid – that is, rapid to adults – change has always been a constant in young people’s lives, but the rate that change occurs at has significantly accelerated with the prevalence of technology. Another trend that youth work practitioners should be aware of is that even when young people and adults / professionals use the same services, their usage patterns and ways differ wildly. That’s why many youth workers in the seminar talked about using youth participation processes to identify and specify to organizations what kind of approaches work and which don’t.
Dirk Madderken joined this seminar with an interest to learn more about youth and media. He works with young people at Horizont organisation in Germany. “We need to be more open minded and interested in all of that. The development of social networking tools is rapid and you can’t have a strict plan for the several next years. It may be that the use of some of tools will increase during the next year, but then it may drop completely. It is important to be always on track. You have to be interested.”, says Dirk.
The participants were tasked to prepare a visual portrait of a young person using current technology and reflect in smaller working groups on how those persons could benefit from digital youth work methods. The discussions were very lively and approaches very different. It was, however, very interesting to see common themes in many of the portraits prepared; many groups thought that through digital approaches young people could learn social skills, media awareness and have a community to belong to. This reflects the participants’ understanding of the meaning of digital media for young people: the chosen tools and platforms are for young people a natural extension of their daily lives and social relations, not an added layer of technology.
This is the 4th part of the article “Taking youth work to the digital world”. This article is an outcome of the international seminar “Developing digital youth work”. The seminar was hosted 13 to 17 September 2016 in Oulu, Finland by the Centre of International Mobility (CIMO). This article was first published on Verke’s website. Continue to the previous part “Online youth participation” or next part “Different realities, different approaches to digital youth work”.