7. Be aware

The freedom of access to content of almost any kind, through the internet, is a potential threat to the lives of young people. Consider that around the age of 10, children start to discover the communicational aspect of the internet and this becomes their main reason to connect. Girls especially use the internet mainly to communicate with others; boys more often look for information or play games. From this point on, as young people begin to explore the internet, the perils become increasingly real.

This chapter addresses the issues which affect young people: ethical, privacy, safety, educational and legal. It presents considerations for those providing social media activities to groups of young people. These are important and often challenging issues, but there are plenty of ways to accommodate them and still provide many or most of the features of social media which young people enjoy and expect.

The online communication that young people develop mainly takes the form of three technologies: email, chat and social networking. Communicating by sharing photos and videos is closely linked to these technologies. These three activities have their advantages as well as their risks and they should be discussed with young people using these technologies. (cfr Child Focus).

Most of the time, young people connect and explore the possibilities new media offers, without worries about legal, ethical or privacy issues. They apply the practice they have in the real world to the online world and learn by trial and error. Young people at risk are even more vulnerable online. That is why it is important to work with them on topics like ethics, privacy and safety.

The general public’s image of young people assumes very good ICT skills. However, there is evidence that this is not true. Sometimes, young people lack the most basic ICT skills. While often being very good at playing computer games, chatting or downloading music, they often don’t know how to fill out a form, conduct a useful search, or look for a job or accommodation. So, there is an educational challenge here, as well.

As the INCLUSO partnership did not have legal experts in the team, we limit the topic on legal issues to a summary of the most important questions that were put forward by the INCLUSO project partners. All the information in these sections has been developed through discussion and interaction with the staff who work directly with youth at risk.