I am a student in the child and youth care
program. I have some questions in regards to an assignment that I am
doing. Is it okay for email, facebook, cell phones, and other social
networks to be used by child and youth care workers to keep in contact
with a child or youth while the youth is in the program, or after they
graduate or are discharged from the program? Should these social
networks be used when a youth goes AWOL to contact youth or allow them
to contact staff? Should these types of social networks be used with
child and youth care workers who do youth outreach with youth on the
street? If you would like to give me your feedback or thoughts on this
issue, that would be great.
The internet is an extension of the life space? Many young people in care have not experienced a great deal of social interaction from significant, supportive and honest adults. Young people should firstly be encouraged and supported to engage in face-to-face communication?
To many adults support freedom without routine, structure and/or boundaries for young people using the internet? I fully understand and acknowledge making changes does not devalue all the hard work that has been done in the past, we do need to be brave to be bold and this is so true for the young people.
However, engaging with young people over the internet/text should never be viewed by the corporate parent/carer as the main tool of communication/engagement.
For the residential folks, how much of this decision
really rests with us about including youth in residential care on
facebook. The people that surround the youth, like family, a social
service/care agency, therapists, etc probably need to be included in
this decision. Once you are on facebook there are opportunities for cut
and paste and saving the file if the youth is being targeted by a
predator. A youth's capacity to say "no" when they really are doing it
perhaps to please a care worker to feel connected, yet do not understand
that others, potentially from around the world, will be able to see
them, including the angry parent who perhaps wishes to contact and/or
apprehend them ... then there is the pedophile ....
As always it is complicated and with creating connectedness and belonging comes the responsibility of ensuring safety and privacy. In Nova Scotia the educational system has removed many if not all pictures from their websites of school events so the students are not easily able to be identified. Does it lose something to not see students embracing their environment, yes... am
I comforted by the confidential anonymity, yes. Youth in residential care come connected with many other people involved (hopefully) and they too have a say beyond residential strategy, boundaries and intentions. The risks exist and the context of each individual situation, as always, is a relevant driver. It is one of those situations where a blanket policy rarely meets with 100% approval from those effected and the safety of a few usually wins out or there would be more autobahn highways with no posted speed limits.
As for "after care" or "outreach" connection of any deliberate sort without a specific mandate to do so, why would you step outside of your professional
boundary and mandate? Once you lose access to the entire context of the treatment plan you are likely flying blind with any intervention. An uninformed intervention is not encouraged in treatment why would it be ok after treatment?
Nova Scotia Canada
I have a "Kid" account on Facebook. It's for any of the youth that want to add me on to their account. I make it clear with them that if I have to, I will share information that I find on Facebook.
I also have very limited information on this account. Very few pictures and none of my friends or family can see it (I have blocked all friends and family and made the account very private). I also, block all youth I work with from seeing my other (Personal) account, and also have very high privacy settings.
Social networks are the current tool for knowing what is going on with our youth. I believe that we should be educated in it and use it. They are not going away, so pretending that it is a bad thing, or harmful site is not going to stop it. I have tracked youth down through Facebook and told them that. I have discovered classes skipped, use of substances etc. I inform the youth "I saw it on Facebook", however they never delete me.
Social networks are a way for them to be connected and form a relationship without being face to face. Sometimes this type of relationship is easier, sometimes they share more over a email then they ever would in person. Sometimes this is HOW to connect with a youth.
I think if you make the boundaries clear and be upfront then there should not be an issue.
Be careful with facebook. Whether you know it or not, everything written on facebook is owned by facebook and can be used at their discretion. Don't forget this is still cyberspace. There is no privacy and that becomes an ethical issue.
I am working with a couple of colleagues on the use of social networking sites with young people in care and leaving care. We are still looking for funding regarding a substantial project but we did carry out a pilot and came up with some interesting findings. A paper called 'in care and online: corporate parenting in the internet age' will be out in the Journal of Technology in Human Services.
We found that there where young people were very internet savvy and felt that, in a life where they felt they had little control or power (due to the controls and restraints of being in residential child care) the internet was a place where they could not only make their own decisions but take control over their identity and narratives.
The young people we spoke to used the sites for all sorts of reasons including building links with family members that they had been unable to do face to face. Young people also felt 'upset' that they had left care and were unable to connect with staff or other young people, particularly when this connection was not even allowed through the medium of a social networking site.
Staff on the other hand were very unsure about how the internet and social networking sites worked. As usual there was a culture of fear surrounding by a rabid over-professionalisation of care that emanated from many of the discussions with residential child care workers.
Separating my thoughts out form this research though, and being a care leaver myself, I want to say that although I acknowledge and understand where Alfonso is coming from, I feel that this is another example our over-protective and litigious culture that is growing amongst those who look after children in care. In 'professional care' a lot of focus seem to be given to the 'professional.' We should always remember that these are young people, human beings and are effected and respond to the decisions we make about how we engage with them. I am not in touch with any of the staff that looked after me as a young person in care or other young people I grew up with and I know I'm not alone in this experience. I hope in the moves forward in the policy and practice of looked after child care we afford more flexibility (as well as kindness and care) in our working practices which can only, for the majority, benefit the young people we work with.
I'm a manger of a residential unit in the UK and we are looking at setting up our own social networking site. I've done a little research and come up with this site called ning. Why don't you try setting up your own social networking site www.ning.com
Try this website too for more information http://www.c4lpt.co.uk/Top100Tools/ning.html
If I can help please look me up on twitter:
There will always be people trying to exploit the
"weaker thans" in any context, be it online or in real life. Ignoring
the prevalence of social media in today's culture is potentially
dangerous. Whatever the technology is today, the only thing we can
really be sure of is that social media is only going to get more
pervasive and by ignoring it, limiting it, and banishing it, we aren't
equipping youth with the tools for living a safe and healthy online
Being online isn't logging on to an "information superhighway" like it used to be. The internet is an extension of the life space. For someone who has no permanent place to call home, their profile is one place where they can always be reached and where they show how they define themselves. Youth Care policy makers have a lot of catching up to do in order to figure out how we're going to deal with this dynamic reality. To not allow (in many cases) youth access to social media we further marginalize them and cut them off from where the real world is happening. To not interact with youth online is ignoring the potential of that arena.
So we really have two options: Ignore it and embrace our obsolescence or make real changes that will revolutionize how we do youth care in a positive way.
Hi Guys, Evelyn nails it.
In a fragmented society
individuals further fragmented through their personal and care histories
can achieve a sense of identity via social networks. That process
involves the opportunity to define and redefine what they themselves
feel to be their essence. Similar functions can be achieved through role
playing experiences that also can take place online.
We as workers have much to learn and need to be, with the young person's permission, alongside them. When we strive to understand youth in the places where they are at we have less need to regulate and prohibit.
Kids in care experience their identities being stolen, denied etc on a regular basis both in abusive households and the system. Arguably social networking is an empowering space because it offers the opportunity for identity and experience to be shared without it being mediated by powerful and/or abusive adults.
Well said Evelyn.
Given that the statistically most dangerous thing that most of us do regularly is to travel in vehicles, it is important to mentally step back from our reactions and concerns to assess why/how we accept certain risks, and fear others. This is not to judge any particular opinion, just that it is important to understand our opinions.
I have noticed that many 'at risk' children/youth are greatly lacking computer skills. These skills are absolute necessities now for young people to prepare themselves for education and employment options. The social use of computers is how most young people develop the basic skills. This can be a window to invite further skill development through a medium which feels comfortable and familiar.
My own young adult children entered the computer world in their early adolescence, and while I resisted for a while, I now understand that both the safety and the usefulness of Internet access is a function of all the rest of the development and awareness that we worked at. Ongoing communication ....
Further, in my work with people with developmental disabilities, learning disorders, and various mental health conditions, I have seen that often children are able to manoeuvre on the computer even when ability with the printed page, writing, or speech seems to be completely or greatly lacking. As a result many students/children/youth can be successful with the computer medium, although there is much development of the resource still to be done. Even with direction from the top down to implement such learning goals, there are insufficient front line resources and professional development.
In reply to Evelyn Downie
I agree, how do we hinder a child/youth from their only source of acceptance and 'connectiveness' with their peers. It is essential to help educate teens and youth on how to use this information positively and how to protect themselves from online predators.