Youth Work: Seven Points I Learnt from using Social Media

Perhaps there has never been a more significant point in time for an increased use in social media since the Covid-19 lockdown.

Like most of society, I have used Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. My usage however has only been at the basic level as I rarely post anything. Having to use social media to create and deliver youth work sessions was initially an unfamiliar area.

Once my familiarity with social media improved, I realised this provided a more creative and structured way in continuing youth work sessions during these difficult times. This also provided support for those young people who were being effected by the negativity of lockdown.

The irony at this point didn’t go unnoticed as reports surrounding social media focus on the negative impacts on young people. Yet, these are the same platforms in which I am now using in a positive way.

Responses to Social Media

I often hear through news reports of the negative impact social media can have on young people due to rising mental health issues, increased focus on body image, bullying and anxiousness.

Yet, interviews with young people surrounding their understanding of social media has captured a mixed response. While some have reported that social media is a way to connect with others, provide opportunities to maintain contact with family members who live far away, and connect young people with others who share similar emotions and experiences – much like a support network where young people reach out to others and offer emotional support.

Other young people have offered a narrative that is all too familiar with the more understood negative impact that social media can have. The vitriol comments that arise from having anonymity or the distance that online activity creates can mask the consequences, increase in bullying and loneliness.

The paradox of social media use can then be seen between the inherently negative assumptions and the mixed responses from those young people who have been interviewed. However, the impact of social media on young people’s health and psychological wellbeing is a new area of study. It is however becoming clear that physical activity and receiving quality sleep is being overlooked in favour of using social media. To address this imbalance, studies suggest that it is important that restricted use of social media is necessary to ensure that a healthy lifestyle balance is maintained.

Seven Things I Have Taken Away From Virtual Youth Group Sessions

Since promoting engagement among you people via WhatsApp and holding numerous virtual sessions, I have taken away seven positive elements for holding youth work session via the use of social media:

  1. Social media is a useful way to engage young people who rarely venture outside due to their low self-esteem, low confidence and those experiencing mental health problems. The use of the WhatsApp messaging helps young people to introduce themselves before engaging in group video calls.
  2. Young people can engage in a virtual group session in their comfortable surroundings. This engagement raises their confidence and build meaningful friendships.
  3. If a young person is feeling conscious of being visible in the virtual sessions, they have the option to switch off their camera and continue engagement. This reduces their level of anxiety to a point where they continue to enjoy taking part.
  4. There has been continual engagement on WhatsApp between the young people outside of the allotted session times, demonstrating that ongoing interaction is positive.
  5. WhatsApp is more engaging for project work, I have put messages on this platform with information for those young people to prepare prior to the allotted virtual youth session. I felt this brings a whole new dynamic to preparing sessions.
  6. The virtual sessions can continue regardless of where the young people are. Those virtual sessions are versatile and results in increased engagement.
  7. WhatsApp virtual sessions and its group messaging capability is a safe and protected environment for young people to have a voice and express themselves.

Conclusion

The feedback I have received from young people who have engaged in these WhatsApp sessions explained that they are fun, that it is good to continue engaging with other young people during lockdown, and it was decided that these sessions had become an area of their life where they could enjoy themselves and forget about the negativity surrounding Covid-19.

The premise of using social media from a professional youth work perspective is starting from where they young people are at. Because the use of social media among young people is increasing and the fact that lockdown has encouraged youth workers to engage virtually, could virtual sessions contribute towards the future of youth work?

Further Reading:

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