Blogging for and about Youth Work and Young People

Courtesy of Milica Sekulic

Courtesy of Milica Sekulic

One of my key learning points from the weekend that we have just run is the impact that mobile technology now has on young people and how different this is to my own experience, not only as a young person but also as a youthworker. When I was younger you either arranged to meet up with your mates when you saw them, rang them over the weekend to make arrangements (or to chat) or popped over to theirs if you hadn’t organised anything. If you didn’t do any of these you didn’t see them and had no communication until the Monday back at school, college, uni or whatever. To some extent this gave you an independence from the relationships you formed and meant that you had to just ‘get on with it’. It also meant that you had to forward plan to some extent or live with ‘chance’ and luck more.(Maybe they would be up the park, in the high street etc)

This weekend we were giving young people a taste of what it might be like when they go to India. On the Saturday morning when they arrived (mostly not knowing anyone) they were asked if they would hand over their mobile phones and mp3 players. I was amazed at the furore this caused. They were shocked that they weren’t going to be able to communicate with anyone! (Although there were another 37 young people on the weekend!! :) )¬† Many of them wanted to keep their phones to keep in touch with parents as well as friends and also found this difficult. However, hand them over they did and they were amazed at the results.

Feedback at the end of the weekend from the young people was how hard (but good) it had been not to have their mobile phone. That they had had to make friends all the more because they couldn’t rely on their usual network of ‘mobile’ friends and the support they got from there, instead they had to rely on the people they were with. They had had to have face to face conversations and depend on the group.

Now, I know I should know and realise, (after all I’ve seen DKs Mediasnackers presentation) but I hadn’t really put together the impact mobile phones have on delivering youth work until this weekend. Given my involvement in Social Media and awareness of tools like Twitter I’m surprised how I hadn’t really thought about its impact. That is the impact on youth workers and how it must affect the delivery on group work sessions, and even how you plan sessions, deliver residentials etc. What you do and how you’re doing can be reported in real time to a much wider audience via the texts etc that young people are sending during your session. This can have its downsides as well as its upsides and I guess that, surprisingly, I hdan’t really thought about it. I had thought about its use in terms of the upsides but not on how it could and probably does impact on youth work colleagues delivering face to face work. I think that I’ll definately be chatting to colleagues during our upcoming conference to find out more about this.

How about you? Are you of the generation who has always known mobile technology and therefore its just a part of life and youth work? Does it affect your delivery? What do you think?

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Comments on: "Mobile Phones and the impact on young people" (7)

  1. Chris Cook said:

    I recall running camps with young people. On one occasion, the young person spoke to their mum at home regularly and became so homesick that they asked their mum to call us onsite (we were only yards away) to say she wanted to go home.

    On another, groups of friends known to me were on separate camps – one lot with me. There was an incident where a small plane came down on a nearby field at the other campsite and within half an hour we were hearing reports of plane crashes and bodies on the ground. The truth was far less dramatic but managing communications is increasingly fraught with difficulties.

    Well done for removing the young people from their phones – something I’ve not had the guts to try yet but I think I may at the next opportunity.

  2. billybean said:

    Hi Chris

    I’ve been aware of the issues re rapid communications and how incidents etc may get relayed but it was the dependence on their ‘mobile network’ that struck me – and the huge feeling of deprivation the young people had being parted from their mobiles. As discussed, they were really positive about it though and felt it helped them focus more on the moment.

    We were luck in that we could use the trip to india as an excuse to part them from their phones, not too sure how it would have gone down otherwise.

  3. Thanks for this – a strong reminder of how technology permeates the lives of young people. Like you, I’ve seen DK’s presentation but this blog brought home the realities of working with young people now. I’ll paste a link onto the Wiltshire NVQ SNS to alert others – Cheers.

  4. no question that mobile phones can make homesickness much worse. The first time we went to Tanzania I banned all phones. I relaxed this when we started in Malawi and regretted it – some people spent every spare moment on their phone and it definitely enhanced their feelings of homesickness.

    I’ve had a mobile phone for all my adult life – it was the first thing I bought when I left home. I’ve always been a gadget person so its very rare that I don’t have some form of technology to hand – but….. the first time I had a conversation with a young person who had an earphone in one ear listening to an mp3 player, and was texting on their phone while apparently at the same time listening to me (she assured me she was!) I didn’t know how to react! Disbelief that she actually was listening or amazement at her multitasking abilities?! Then I was told it was normal to listen to ipods during school lessons – what??!!

    We’d always made an effort to ensure our courses were not like school – so we did have background music during sessions. Then I though I never work in silence myself (always with the radio or music on) – so, so what?

    But still headphones seemed antisocial. It meant they were partly not involved – partly detached from everyone else. I think the same about phones. I hate having conversations where every couple of minutes somebody replies to a text.

    On the otherhand I know that for our own volunteers they were very often texting other volunteers that weren’t on that particular course. So actually they were keeping those absent volunteers involved. I’d be working with different volunteers the following week who would already know much of what happened the previous week from ongoing text conversations.

    So in the end I just accepted texting in the background and kept in mind that for important points I needed to check everyone was listening (fully) at that moment. I also accepted headphones apart from in face to face chats (but truthfully I still find this rude and aloof).

    I think there is value in having periods without phones though and I think for people that have only recently met they bond much quicker if contact with their external network is removed.

  5. Learning when not to be digitally connected is definitely as important a skill as learning how to make the most of being connected.

    I initially find it very difficult to work when I’m without internet or mobile-internet access – it’s pretty much always been there – and if I do go to work away from home without web access I notice my ‘multi-tasking tick’ where every so often I’ll check my phone, or switch windows on the computer to the web-browser – just because I’m so used to those being sources of connectivity etc.

    Yet – it’s really important to get those times of disconnection – to learn about different forms of relationship forming and different forms of thinking (connected thinking where you can look anything up when you want to know it… vs. reflective thinking where you need to work things out from the information and emotions you have at hand). We may need to be explicit about the way we explore and learn this with young people (and indeed, anyone living in this world of growing connectivity…)).

    I’ve had some really interesting conversations today with careers advisors – exploring whether being able to stay connected so pervasively through social networks to friends from back home is good or bad for students moving away to Uni and the liklihood of homesickness related drop-outs.

    Lots that we need to research and explore and talk about with young people in here.

  6. billybean said:

    Thanks for this Tim, it’s interesting to see things from a connected and disconnected point of view. Definitely makes you think!

  7. mugumya felex said:

    Thank you very much and i am happy to read the article. i would like to request for more information about impact of mobile phone on the social interaction among the youth. if provided, it will add to my research paper i will be doing and increase my awareness on ICT. thank you very much.

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