Blog retired

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We finished and presented the NYA funded Youth Work and Social Networking report just under a year ago - and whilst this blog has been fairly quiet, lots has been going on to take forward some of the ideas from that research and in the wider field.

This blog is now retired - and no new postings will be added here. However, you can continue to follow developments exploring Youth Work and Social Networks over in the Youth Work Online network, and via Tim Davies' blog.

One of our suggestions in the Youth Work and Social Networking research was that youth workers who find young people to have risky or 'unsuitable' information on their Social Network Site profiles, or finding profiles where the privacy settings have not been set carefully, should raise that with young people - possibly by a message on the Social Network Site itself.

Research from a US Study shows that this sort of intervention can lead to young people changing the information on their profiles.

I recently presented the findings of the Youth Work and Social Networking research at a conference organised by Opportunity Links. The presentation was videoed and at 20 minutes is probably the best brief overview of the research available to watch at the moment:

You can watch the presentation below, or see it along with the original sides on the Opportunity Links events blog.

danah boyd, whose work leads the field when it comes to understanding young people's interaction with and experiences of Social Network Sites has just shared on her blog an exploration of the Lori Drew online bullying case in the US and how parents and society should respond.

danah writes:

The most important thing that we need are digital street workers. When I was in college, college students volunteered as street workers to help teens who were on the street find resources and help. They directed them to psychologists, doctors, and social workers. We need a program like this for the digital streets. We need college-aged young adults to troll the digital world looking out for teens who are in trouble and helping them seek help. We need online counselors who can work with minors to address their behavioral issues without forcing the minor to contend with parents or bureaucracy. We need online social workers that can connect with kids and help them understand their options.

The Youth Work and Social Networking project came to a similar conclusion, although recognising that it need not only be college-aged adults, but any age youth work professionals with the skills and experience to offer support to young people in the online environment.

It's exactly the capacity to deliver this much needed online outreach and support to young people the report, and the follow up work we are developing, is seeking to catalyse and develop.
Much of the learning for the Youth Work and Social Networking project cam from the fantastic work going on in Devon to pioneer and explore new approaches to online engagement with young people, driven forward by the brilliant Katie Bacon.

Katie has just posted a video over on the Youth Work Online network where she shares an update on progress in Devon, and offers key tips to anyone else who wants to get started using Social Network sites in their youth work.

Find more videos like this on Youth Work Online

Cross posted from Tim's Blog

If you prefer listening to a presentation over reading a report (PDF) - then you can catch some of the key learning from the Youth Work and Social Networking project in this video from Tim speaking at the Wise Kids conference in Swansea during October.

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You can find the Video here. Choose 'Workshop B' from the Playlist, and then select the presentation labelled 'Tim Davies' to watch.

This video also introduces a new way of looking at the workforce development aspect of the Youth Work and Social Networking final report - exploring different youth work responses to Social Network Sites through the stories of four different youth workers.

Final Report Available

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Just a quick post to let you know that you can now download the final report of the Youth Work and Social Networking report here:

Youth Work and Social Networking - Final Report (PDF)

I'll share a bit more about what it contains soon - but at a glance we hope that it offers:

  • An overview of how young people are using online social networking;
  • A survey of the opportunities and risks created by online social networking;
  • A youth work perspective on online social networking - making the case for a youth work role engaging with online social networking and providing a brief theoretical foundation for that.
  • Practical steps for youth work engagement with online social networking - including an outline policy checklist and a proposed model for staff training.
You can read the press release about the report here.

Interpreting language in SNS

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Katie has been writing up her reflections on the SNS and Youth Participation project in Devon. In particular - she raises interesting concerns about how, when we engage in dialogue with young people online, there could be problems with the way young people's written communication is interpreted:

 I have a concern for misinterpretation by adults over reacting to young people views and opinions.  In my observations and experience we tend to hear and listen selectively however, with written evidence of dialogues and opinions of young people there is the possibility of adults over reacting. 


There needs to be clear consultation, debate and discussion with young people and adults about how the policy and framework will guide young people and practitioners on how to respond to issues of clear inappropriate comments are being submitted - young person/group submitting sexually explicit words, abusive language, racists comments, homophonic comments.


I would anticipate that once comments are removed that an appropriate identified practitioner would contact the young person/group and review the situation facilitating discussion, reflection and learning about their views/opinions and the repercussions on others and themselves.  There is a necessity to promote reflective and critical thinking amongst young people but also adults!

Understanding how to read young people's contributions to online discussions is definitely going to be an important part of any participation work... and as Katie suggests - it involves a developing of literacies for both young people and adults.


The core part of the Youth Work and Social Networking project is almost at an end. I've just finished the main report - and the NYA have been busy planning a research launch for Friday 26th September 2008. An invitation if you are interested in coming along is below (and if you'll be heading to London specially, why not stay around and join us for a day of discussion on the 27th as part of the UK Youth Online open space conference).

Youth Work and Social Media – Research launch  

Friday 26 September 2008


Mary Ward House, 5-7 Tavistock Place, London, WC1H 9SN


Online social networking, most commonly associated with Social Network Sites like MySpace, Facebook and Bebo, is a growing and significant phenomenon and part of many young people’s lives.

The National Youth Agency has been carrying out research into the role that Youth Work can play in supporting young people to make the most of the opportunities afforded by online social networking, as well as navigate the potential risks involved. An interim report on this work is available here 

We are pleased to invite you to a free event to launch the final research report at Mary Ward House on Friday 26th September, from 2.45 pm. Refreshments will be available on arrival. Directions to the venue are available here

Delegates will hear a presentation from Tim Davies and Pete Cranston, the report’s authors, which will address:

  • An overview of the literature on the opportunities and risks of online social networking, the data on how young people are engaging with online social networking, and the efficacy of the different strategies for supporting young people's safe and effective engagement with online social networking tools and spaces;
  • Findings about the current levels of engagement with online social networking tools within the youth work workforce - from both an online survey and focus group research;
  • The findings of three action research pilots looking at: developing policies to safe local authority engagement with social networking sites for youth participation; training for youth workers and youth professionals to be able to support young people to be safe in online social networking spaces; and using online social networking spaces to promote services to young people.

The presentation will cover practical steps that youth services can take to address social networking and open discussion will follow.

If you would like to attend this free event please respond to with your:


Job Title:

Email address:

Contact telephone number:

Spaces are limited so we would advise early booking.

Delegates may also be interested in two other events running immediately before and after this one.

  • The Local Government information Unit is running a good practice seminar on social networking and youth participation at the same venue immediately prior to this research launch, at a cost of £110 plus VAT. For more details, see the LGiU website
  • On Saturday 27th September, The UK Youth Online conference is a free co-created event for anyone with an interest in how technology impacts upon, or can be used in, work with under 18s – for more details, see the UK Youth Online website

bbl youth centre.jpgGillian Elliott is an Area Youth Worker at the Blackbird Leys Youth Centre in Oxford. The Blackbird Leys estate is one of the areas in Oxford that belies the stereotypical image of a mainly privileged University town. Relatively recently the area ranked in the 10% most deprived areas in England with high unemployment and associated crime rates.


Gillian is an experienced youth worker who has recently taken over the centre and working energetically to develop it. She joined the Action Research project to explore how Social Networking could supplement traditional youth work activities. Her aims were to build staff capacity, starting with herself, promote the centre and provide an additional channel for communication with young people, both as a group and individually.


With strong support from Jeremy Dennis, Oxfordshire County Council Youth Support Services web Editor, Gillian set up both a Bebo and Facebook profile, although it was soon clear that Bebo was the more promising site for the users. BBL Youth Centre Bebo profile  The young people were interested and several befriended the site, although they weren’t initially keen to edit or contribute to it – preferring rather to comment on the work done by Gillian and Jeremy. Importantly, the majority of youth club members don't have access to computers at home and instead use the computers at friend's houses and sometimes school. There have been delays in getting the two machines ordered for the centre so access was provided through a two hour session at the local IT hub in the same building.


Reviewing progress three months on Gillian feels she isn’t yet using it as she would wish. This is partly because of the limited access to machines which means that young people tend to use the time for immediate personal communications, MSN and email. Time is the other constraint, with Gillian fully busy developing and running the centre. A work experience student jazzed up the Bebo site and Gillian is planning to continue that support through engaging one of the new staff joining the centre (as a part of a pilot on weekend opening). The site needs to become proactive, posting pictures and films of the group although many member’s immediate reaction has been to, “shout and scream and say they don’t want pictures on the web”.


Once the two machines are installed Gillian plans to allow members “open and easy access” so they can come in and use it regularly. Her biggest hope from Social Networking is easier communication. She is clear though that a Youth Work approach is essential. “It’s the same as youth work on the face to face level, you – I – need to build a relationship through the site to a user group”