Detached youth work… a new phenomenon?
Following my decision to go at it alone and create yet another personalised Blog I was faced with the complex task of deciding a name for what I hope will become a great resource for all. As I sat attempting to contemplate a fitting name for a blog, which I anticipate will predominately explore the topic of ‘virtual youth work’, I remembered an analogy I used during my presentation at the LGiU seminar. I related the process of engaging unknown young people through social networking sites to the delivery of ‘detached’ or in this case ‘virtual detached youth work’. As we begin to openly explore the opportunities for engagement using these sites many youth workers and young people themselves have expressed concerns. Common within these concerns is the belief that this method of engagement is ‘new’ when in fact I believe it has been in use within youth work practice for many years.
A great example of this occurred during the seminar when two young people from Lewisham were asked to share their views on the use of social networking sites within youth work. Surprisingly they were not very positive about the idea and in fact discouraged the seminar’s participants from using sites such as Facebook to engage young people citing that it was an invasion of their ‘private space’. In one way I do agree with the young people. Engaging young people through these sites will require a youth worker to ‘invade’ the young people’s ‘private spaces’, however this is no different to the methods used for many years within detached or street based youth work. Out on the streets youth workers will often invite themselves into young people’s ‘private spaces’ such as in the park that the young people hang out in or near the wall that they sit on. They will then proceed to attempt to engage the young people and build relationships. Often they will be told to go away or occasionally they will strike up conversations and begin to build relationships leading to future positive engagement. Key to this method of engagement is that young people have the choice to agree or to decline the invitation of engagement.
As Jeffs explains when discussing ‘voluntary participation’ and engagement it requires ‘young people’ to have the choice ‘to become involved in settings and activities. Furthermore, within youth work settings they have freedom over the depth of their involvement.’ (1996)
Therefore as long as youth workers maintain the ‘voluntary’ aspect when engaging young people through social networking sites, young people can choose to decline friend requests and invitations to express their ‘views and opinions’.
So to promote this analogy and encourage further discussion on the topic I name this blog ‘virtually detached’…
Jeffs, T. (1996) ‘The hallmarks of youth work’, YMCA George Williams College Induction Studies Unit 7.