There is growing significance of mobile devices in people’s everyday lives. According to Bitkom, 93% of the mobile phones sold are smartphones. Smartphones are used for entertainment (music, games, TV) – 33%, Communication (voice, SMS, eMail) – 28%, Web Surfing – 21%, Social Networking – 15%, and Camera – 3%. But the significance of mobile devices manifests itself also in the use of smartphones for “identity formation, social interaction, making meaning in and of the world, leisure pursuits” (Pachler, Seipold & Bachmair). Especially young people use mobile devices as their main internet access, and to use social media (e.g. Facebook), which is most relevant in case of young people. There is a danger that the development in technology use in everyday life can divide youth workers and their young clients depending on how familiar each group is with the use of mobile devices. This is often discussed in terms of “digital natives vs. digital immigrants”, “Generation X, Y & Z”, “digital divide“, “generation gap“, or using Sinus-Milieus (DIVSI Milieu Study on Trust and Security on the Internet, 2012). Youth workers, especially women, are usually not tech-savvy (digital immigrants, Generation X or Y) whilst young people are often early adopters of new technologies (digital natives, Generation Y or Z) (Guljajeva). Hence there are different levels of expertise to be expected in the use of mobile devices and social media.
On a broader level “users of mobile technologies communicate, structure, organize and order, plan, network, furnish information, assess, evaluate and produce” (Pachler, Seipold & Bachmair). Even if young mobile users “develop significant expertise in their everyday life-worlds, this expertise tends to be ‘naive’, i.e. unreflected” (Pachler, Seipold & Bachmair). Media is consumed for entertainment, created for self-expression and social networks are interacted on a daily, if not hourly basis. All these activities can be drawn upon to support social work, both through enabling a shared discourse with clients, and through providing additional means for engagement with them. The use of this social media also raises issues of privacy, protection and digital identity which are of key importance to the security and development of young people. The challenge is to enrich these activities using the professional framework of youth work.
For youth workers there is no standardized training that addresses the competences needed to work within this scenario. There is training that focuses on the use of social media in different topics related to youth work like i.e. privacy settings in social media, compulsive use of social media, policy for social media in organisations, or dealing with cyber bullying. There is a lack of broader approach that is based on the experience of elder, often female, not tech-savvy youth workers who, on the one hand, are experienced professionals in youth work but may not be digitally literate, especially in the current use of digital media and mobile devices. These youth workers must be addressed in a certain way to overcome their lack of engagement with this part of young people’s needs instead of being made to feel incompetent and shame due to their lack of knowledge and skills. Furthermore most of the training focuses on the negative aspects of the use of mobile devices and social media. Youth workers therefore need to establish a reflected, critical attitude towards the risks of mobile devices and social media but also to develop youth work practice that develops positive regard to young people’s use of these technologies. Doing this will build a positive relationship between youth workers and young people, which is crucial for effective youth work.
To achieve this youth workers must be enabled to bridge the digital divide by working on:
- the risks of compulsive use or abuse of the communication possibilities (i.e. cyber bullying, wrong privacy settings, identity theft),
- the beneficial use smartphones and social media,
- digital exclusion due to poverty or poor education,
- a mindset to develop a digital citizenship,
- the digital divide between the generations,
- the different perception of the relevance of “virtual” incidents in contrast to “real” incidents,
- the competences to use digital devices to relate to young people and by this enhance their skills needed in the labour market,
- the attitude towards technology as a topic and a means of youth work in a digitized society.
This partnership responds to the needs of the labour market, particularly of social services and training organisations. It anticipates skills needed in this labour market and it aims to improve the qualification of teachers and trainers. The partners collaborate to develop, test and apply a framework for VET at European level with the aim to achieve this on a ground level with professionals with hand-on-experience of the field.