2.2 How to approach Young People while using digital technology
It sometimes happens that youth workers shy away from using new technologies in their work. They say: “What can I teach young people?”, “I am not up to date with technology”, “They use digital tools more efficiently than I do”. But you don’t have to be a digital guru to introduce new technologies into your practice.
We have several tips that can prove useful:
Interest in new technologies is essential. Young people use them every day. If you work with them, you need to know what they use and how. This does not mean that you should now send Snaps to your friends (if any of them was actually able to receive them) or record TikTok videos. It is important to know what applications are popular among the age group you work with. What purpose they serve, what benefits they offer, what dangers they can bring with them. If you know that Snapchat is used to send photos or short videos, which then disappear, and the user decides who can view their photo, it will be easier for you to understand how young people use this application. You will take into account that Snapchat, thanks to its functionalities, allows young people to share their captured moments, often awkward, raw selfies. Thanks to this, young people can be more authentic, and Snapchat is becoming more and more popular among teenagers and young adults. At the same time, you can draw attention to the dangers that this platform brings with it. Often the photos sent via this application are more daring and bold and would not appear on Instagram or Facebook. This knowledge gives you a strong foundation for working with young people. But first of all, you need to gain this knowledge, be interested in what young people are using and observe the changing trends.
Learn from the young people
To keep up to date, it is best to learn from young people. Don’t be afraid to ask what applications teenagers now use, or how they work. Young people are usually happy to share their knowledge. By being open to new knowledge and learning from young people you can only gain. Being seen as an expert in a certain field, and having an opportunity to share one’s knowledge is for young people a sign of appreciation and acknowledgment, and has a positive impact on their self-confidence and belief in their abilities. Such an attitude may also have a positive influence on building your authority. Young people may perceive you as someone who is open to new knowledge, interested in their lives and not afraid to admit that they do not know something.
Don’t be afraid
Don’t be afraid to talk to young people about how they use the Internet and new technologies, but also use the opportunities offered by digital tools with courage. Experiment. Introduce new technologies into your youth work practice and observe how they influence the learning process. Ask your workshop participants about their feelings and impressions. Make changes. Try new things, make mistakes and draw conclusions from them. You don’t have to be an IT expert to use digital tools in your work. The applications you’ll be using cannot be damaged.
Share your knowledge and skills
It is true that young people are able to use technology fluently and have an intuitive understanding of how to use applications. However, studies show that the use of the Internet by teenagers is very limited. They mainly use it for entertainment: listening to music, watching movies or for communication. They know that they can find the information they need on the Internet. However, their competences are frequently limited to typing a query in the search engine window. It is already difficult for some of them to decide what phrase they should enter to find the desired content. The same applies to the selection of information and the assessment of the credibility of the content. Young people need a guide to the digital world, someone who will show them valuable online places they can learn from, as well as teach them how to deal with the deluge of information and to be critical of the content found online.
Also, our research proved that the development of digital competences can be a field of mutual exchange of experiences between young people and educators. Youth workers do a great job in helping young people to secure their privacy, make them aware of the consequences of online behaviours, and show them the wider context. At the same time, they benefit from the knowledge of young people, learn new tools from them and then show how to use them more widely or to how to solve a problem using technology.
Still, in order to incorporate the digital approach into youth work, it is necessary to be prepared. Think about what tools you want to use during a workshop – what will help you achieve your goals and enrich the learning process? Check the functionality of selected tools and how they work before your session, test them with other youth workers or friends to know how to use them and how to give instructions. In addition, you can always use instructions or tutorials for the tool, which you can easily find on the Internet.
We believe that these tips will give you the willingness to integrate new technologies into your work with young people and remove any concerns you may have. You really do have something to share with young people.