Our June 2018 TechforGoodBath event focused on empowering youth through digital technology, exploring the challenges and risks around youth and tech, but equally how tech can provide new creative and supportive opportunities for our young people.

Data Privacy and youth – balancing the opportunities and the risks, from Catherine Knivett – The Corsham Institute

The Corsham Institute is uniquely located in one of the busiest data hubs in the UK. The history of the Institute lends itself to proactively addressing how digital technology is shaping the modern world with a specific focus on trust and data privacy. The core beliefs of the institute are to ensure continuous growth and build resilience to adapt to change within communities.  

Catherine provided some recent insights, including that policy makers are struggling to keep up with the way that technology is impacting society.  Recent work uncovered that, with the introduction of GDPR, there has not been much focus on what people need and want within the legislation. There is also a lack of understanding around some of the fundamental aspects of the legislation, for example 48% of people didn’t know the accepted definition of personal data.  Polls carried out by the Corsham Institute showed that people want more control over their data, and focus groups within communities have surfaced the desire for communities to create community champions for GDPR.

Catherine particularly focuses on children and young people, and recent surveys with approximately 2,000 children under the age of 18 showed over 50% of children have open accounts on social media.  Furthermore the majority of children aged 10-12 have social media accounts despite the legal age being 13.

Catherine demonstrated the amount of policy work going on in the space of children and technology but reminded us of the importance of involving children in policy making, “It’s really important we take stock of what’s really going on and involve children to understand how they are feeling and how they are using technology.”  

Community needs

Interesting research carried out by the Corsham Institutes demonstrates the diverse needs of parents and educators in the digital space.  Parents feel they need more support to understand how to tackle and approach the following issues online:

  1. contact w/ strangers
  2. inappropriate images
  3. cyberbullying
  4. unhealthy online/offline balance
  5. sexting and online pornography

Educators want support with:

  1. Delivering computing with confidence
  2. Supporting children with cyberbullying and contact with strangers
  3. Helping children and young people have positive, creative experiences online

The Corsham Institute are piloting a local project in Corsham to address the needs of children and parents, with providing the tools and supportive context for teachers.

Safeguarding children online – training in Bath and North East Somerset, Sue Wheeler – Safe in your Hands

Safe in your Hands provides training for parents and teachers to understand the impact of technology on children, and shared a few key insights from her work with parents.

  • Talking about the challenges: The way that people are using technology is changing the way we talk about challenges facing our young people.  For example, the term bullying was recently redefined in the dictionary. Previously, a bully was defined as a person who uses influence to harm weaker people. Now a victim of bullying is described as someone who “they perceive as vulnerable”.  This is a positive shift, demonstrating the importance of ensuring children understand the concept of perception, of themselves and others, in an online space.
  • Describing behaviours online: Sue introduced some emerging terminology which is now being used to describe behaviours online. SMishing, for example, is where text messages are used to phish for personal and sensitive data.  It’s important parents are aware of the various ways people are fraudulently seeking information, so they can help their children understand what harmfully messages look like.
  • What do parents understand?: Sue questioned whether parents understand the current situation for children. Historically we have used the internet as babysitting tools and we have not been aware of who they are talking to or what they are playing.  When parents don’t understand the dangers children can become vulnerable without realising it. It is the responsibility of parents to protect their children in online spaces, and this starts with learning more about the online environment.

Sue ended on a positive note, saying we can use technology for good and we need to learn from each other to find the best ways to do things.  By working together and teach children early enough – we can create a positive environment for young people to safely engage, and enjoy tech!

Engaging young people in creative opportunities of tech, John Reeves – Teach Programming

John is a software engineer who runs Teach Programming to encourage children to learn about technology, and inspire more diversity. John highlighted a few areas which influence diversity in technology:

  • Gender identity: as girls and boys start to be aware of gender stereotypes, around the age of 12, girls in particular are more likely to stop pursuing activities and topics which are considered to be ‘for boys’
  • Educational relationships: children can be particularly influenced by individuals within an educational environment, teachers who are confident and positive about learning about technology can be an inspiration
  • Induced helplessness: repeated negative experience in using and interacting with technology can lead children to choose not to pursue an interest in tech.  

Through Teach Programming John sees the impact of teaching girls, they are hugely collaborative learners who tend to self organise to support each other.  If there is a new learner in the class, a more experienced learner will support them to navigate the coding exercises. As his own daughter demonstrates it’s so important boys and girls are part of the change, so it becomes normal for girls to be seen in technology and engineering studies.

Digital peer-to-peer support for youth mental health, Jamie Druitt – TalkLife

The TalkLife app is a safe social network for young people to get help, and give help. The platform seeks to provide a safe place for people to create a community where you can always feel welcome and know that someone will support you.  As the founder of TalkLife, Jamie developed the app based on his own experience when he needed a support network during a difficult time. Quickly he realised there was a real need to connect people who were experience a multitude of mental health challenges to connect with people who could support them.  

As the app grew Jamie recognised the need to include professionals in mental health and safeguarding to inform how the app was designed and developed, and ensure appropriate support was given to those seeking help.  The platform is supportive – tailoring interaction around what people are saying and integrating social interaction.

The app is developing technology to identify risk signals and danger signs to support people to improve their situation, rather than spiral further.  The app can be used across the world, for example in India, TalkLife is building hyperlocal interventions by supporting existing mental health support services.

Shaping a digital strategy involving young people in Bath and North East Somerset, Phil Walters – Off the Record

Off The Record provides mental health support and information to youth in Bristol.  Founded in 1965 it is one of the longest running services for young people’s mental health in the UK.  Off the Record provide a range of services from counselling, anti-stigma campaigns, creative therapies and stress management.  Off the Record services are designed by children and young people, for children and young people.

Currently Off the Record is redesigning it’s digital presence, but taking the time to do this by asking children and young people what they want and expect, and involving them in the development of the digital strategy for the future of the organisation.  This is important, as the service will be most effective when young people feel they can engage, ask for help and support the growth of the activities.