Social media for social inclusion of youth at risk: Conference Day 2

The second day of the conference started with the presentation “Youth work and the use of new media: is it safe? – The legal perspectives”. This presentation was about the legal rules that apply, like for instance social network sites are forbidden for youngsters under 13 years old. This I knew but what I didn’t knew was that this also includes social network sites like Ning which is a closed network site.

After this presentation we had the choice again between two tracks. I chose track 1 because it seemed the most interesting track for my thesis.

  1. The first presentation was “Measuring impact of the use of social software for social inclusion of youth at risk”. This was about developing an instrument that can measure the progress and impact of the social software. The results are in the paper coming online on the incluso website. Now to do this, they say that digital inclusion relates to three things:
    – Better communication skills
    – More active citizenship (following the news,…)
    – Increased social capital
    An interesting discovery that they made was that the use of social software increases skills more than just using a computer.
  2. The second presentation was “Reflections on the new peer to peer news paradigm as exploited by youngsters. The influence of both education level and type on news participation, seeding behavior and attitudes within web 2.0 environments”. This one was really interesting, not for the thesis in particular but in general some interesting insights. The Media Expertise Centre of the KHMechelen found that the youth (~19 years old) doesn’t want serious things on facebook, msn,… these are all about friends and they don’t want to mix fun and serious stuff. For that reason they also do not really like interactivity on serious sites because it makes it less serious… I do not really agree with everything they said but it is true that you want the serious things to come from serious sites. I don’t want people just putting news on there status on facebook because the seriousness of the news is compromised by doing so. What I do like is people who share serious news by posting the articles from a serious website like for example De Standaard. What I also did not understand is that the youth doesn’t like interactivity on serious sites. Indeed it could lead to ridiculous comments, but if it is well moderated then it could lead to interesting information or even point out that the article is not entirely correct (which too badly happens a lot!).
  3. After the coffee break it was time for the “SHARE IT” presentation. This was about extending the classroom to the living environment. Education can take place anywhere… [more on this later]
  4. The fourth presentation was “Taking things beyond the experimental stage. An integrative approach to using online strategies in social services”. This was about JAC, the youth advisory centre in Belgium. They pointed out that the biggest problem is that youngsters are ashamed. So they are always looking for new ways to get in contact with them -> Social network sites. This is also the reason why in my opinion in an application for in the classroom there must be a tool to allow anonymous interaction for those people who are shy and ashamed to say things.
  5. Then it was time for “Where the worlds of e-inclusion and evidence based meet”.
  6. The last presentation before lunch was “Social Inclusion and Digital Engagement: Towards a Measurement Framework” by the European commission. This was about the fact that survey’s are not a good idea for youth at risk since they are mostly not accessible so there is a need for better measurement utilities.

After the lunch there were three more presentations:

  1. The first one was from Bednet, “Inclusion and children with medical needs – the Bednet case”. This was very interesting for my thesis. This organization has an application that makes it possible for youth that has to stay home or in bed can still attend classes and actively participate so it seems they aren’t gone. The application has a “Raise hand” button so the teacher knows the student wants to ask/answer something. This is also something I would like to add in my thesis application. This presentation made me also wondering if this occurs a lot with people with disabilities. That for example for some tests they are absent for a while. If so perhaps this can also be inserted into the application…
  2. The second presentation was “Tackling youth crime: exploring technological solutions to enhance youth engagement and promote social inclusion”. At first this seemed less interesting for my thesis but then they showed a very interesting graph that the biggest target segment focus of cases and projects are the disabled. [graph to be inserted when slides available] They also mentioned Design4all accessibility which might be interesting for the thesis.
  3. The last presentation of the conference was “Youngsters and their mediated bedrooms: a socio-demographic analysis of differences in ownership and use of new information technologies”. This showed some facts and figures on how the situation is in Flanders. Interesting was that 78% of the youngsters in Flanders have an internet connection and 81% has a pc.

To end the conference there was a research and policy note: “A common view point of 5 FP7 projects and Conference participants on future research in the area of ICT driven initiatives for social inclusion of youth at risk. Discussion Panel on questions raised by the researchers, practitioners and the audience”. It started again with the European commission saying how important this research area is. That the youth at risk is at the top of EU importance. There was also a voting with the question “Extending the work of intermediary organizations working with marginalized young people to social network sites and other social media brings nothing but positive effects”

The answer from the participants was clearly positive and so was my answer after this very interesting conference of which I’m really happy I was given the chance to attend it.

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