Case 3: Reading and writing skills online

We found that the majority of young people will do almost anything to avoid having to write online. This is a major obstacle to discussions and activities in which you seek an opinion. In Scotland, at SHMU's Youth Radio Project pilot, we discovered a 12-year-old female who enjoyed writing very much. "I leave comments, I like having my own page to customise. Other people reply to me and I enjoy chatting and typing and stuff," she said. But she was unusual in her enjoyment of the writing process.

Most young people avoided it or wrote as little as possible when they had to write (unless they were writing messages to friends). We found they rarely initiated comments to staff which were anything more substantial than "How R U?", but at the end of the Tilly Youth Project pilot we found some of the Polish young people (Aberdeen has a growing population of immigrant Polish famililes) had begun to express more opinionated comments to a part-time Polish staff member. As a result of this writing avoidance we focused on video as a means of communication, but that can be labour intensive, and we found ourselves doing all the work. Many of our videos scored very low in the number of people who had viewed them.

On reflection, we believe that our expectations were too high and that we could have posed better questions to attract young people to participate. With more time and as the pilots evolved we wold have developed more sophisticated means of communication which would have adapted to the preferences of young people.