Social Media - E-relationships: How do we stay socially connected, healthy and safe?

“You’ve just been creeped.” 

What I thought I knew about the activities of youth in social media; and what I know now after listening to them and seeing them deliver and facilitate a summit on social media scares me to death!  Perhaps because I have a 14-year-old daughter at home or maybe because I was perfectly content with my head stuck in the sand.

I don’t think of myself as particularly old or decrepit, however I am facing the reality that I am fast becoming my father and that my generation is WAY out of touch with their children.  The pace of progress and technology is mind boggling and this coupled with the fact that children are exposed to and involved in far more activity which is not being monitored by their parents, causes me great concern.

The summit on social media I mentioned at the beginning of this article was a huge success based on the fact that youth had full control of the event - planning, delivery and content.  It was quite scary for the adults in the room who constantly looked for an agenda. There was none. However it was a very comfortable process and a fluid experience for youth.   The results and information offered by the experts (yes, the youth!) were fantastic and my only complaint was – “why did we wait so long to do this?” 

We are faced with a monumental task, summed up perfectly in the question developed by the youth team which was the focus of the summit – “E-relationships: how do we stay socially connected, healthy and safe?”  Regardless of your views on the privacy of youth on-line and how to monitor their activity effectively, we still need to be aware.  We need to develop authentic, honest and trustworthy relationships with youth and we need to make sure we are allowing them control and influence in policy and decision making – very scary stuff for adults but when done right the results will blow your mind!

My single biggest revelation during the summit on social media was listening to youth talk about how their parents need to become more involved and need to be better educated in social media and the implications for relationships.  Now all we have to do is listen to them and do what they say – with them not without them.  

“Don't smother each other. No one can grow in the shade.”   ~ Leo Buscaglia 

John Sharpe – CEO Partners for Youth

Violence Prevention Summit Report - Organizers were able to collect information on the most current landscape Download as PDFof electronic relations amongst New Brunswick youth at an event on April 21, 2012. This report reflects the organizing, execution and basic analysis of that event.

Additional Resources:

Canada is “world’s most engaged web nation” – what does this say about engaging youth?

Whatever the reason, Canadians are spending more time online than any other country, including highly wired societies such as China, South Korea and the United States.

Social Media as an engagement tool for inclusive practices in programming 

Social Media as a Part of the Solution: Can social media support the social inclusion of youth-at-risk?

Sexting: Considerations for Canadian Youth

Until a few years ago the word “sexting” did not exist. The word is a combination of sex and texting and refers to the sending of sexually related text or images from one mobile phone to another. In most instances, sexting refers to the sending of nude or semi-nude photos that the sender has taken of themselves. Based on media coverage of the issue, it is assumed that one prominent form of sexting is the exchange of nude photos between teenagers.

Respectful and Responsible Relationships: There’s No App for That, the Report of the Nova Scotia Task Force on Bullying and Cyberbullying

Bullying is a major social issue throughout the world and is one of the symptoms of a deeper problem in our society: the deterioration of respectful and responsible human relations. The magnitude of the problem is daunting and there are no simple solutions on the horizon. There are, however, some effective strategies.

Child Safety On-line: Global Challenges and Strategies

UNICEF’s report, Child Safety Online: global challenges and strategies, reviews global evidence and practice, and answers the questions, “what are the risks to children online?” and “what are the most effective responses to make them safer?” The report exposes myths and provides evidence to equip policymakers, professionals, families and business to respond.

Youtube Resources

Meeting of the Minds: Youth, Social Media and Education

danah boyd presentation and panel discussion at New York Public Librabry

Social Media trends and use in Canada

Next is Now depicts the human connections empowered by rapid changes in communications technology in Canada and around the world. Next is Now was produced by Rogers with support from 76design and Thornley Fallis

Digital Citizenship Websites

Clarifying the blurred lines between cyberbullying and socially responsible digital citizenship

Canadian website addressing the needs of young people, parents, teachers, policy makers and adult supporters, connected to the work of Dr. Shaheen Shariff: 

Drawing the digital line 

US site for teens and adults as teen allies, featuring videos, games, forums and campaign tools. The cartoon videos about issues of password sharing, constant texting and sending nude photos are great learning opportunities for young people. The site interfaces with facebook, youtube and twitter.