Digital already plays a central role in the everyday life of many young people across the UK, impacting everything from education and employment to entertainment and public services. This impact will only intensify in the years ahead.
The advantages and opportunities that the digital world bring are well documented and are extraordinary. However, the opportunity to access and ability to utilise the online world safety, productively and enjoyably is by no means guaranteed for all. The public narrative that all young people are competent and confident online, obscures the experiences of many. This ‘blind spot’ in our understanding of young people and technology serves to deepen rather than eradicate the ‘digital divide’ and compounds many other forms of social, financial and cultural exclusion.
So how do we ensure all young people are equipped with the appropriate access, skills and motivation to navigate the myriad of online challenges and to make the most of the opportunities that the digital world has to offer?
The Carnegie UK Trust has been delighted to support Glasgow City HSCP as part of the Digital Resilience Group over the last 18 months, to explore the current digital experiences of looked after and accommodated young people. We are particularly pleased that this research has been driven by the young people themselves and hope they too will be satisfied with the outcomes. We have valued the expert understanding provided by Snook who produced this research, which contributes valuable qualitative data to inform the suite of actions undertaken by the Digital Resilience Group, and provides necessary independent insight into the reality of digital life for young people across Glasgow.
This work provides a number of thoughtful reflections, not just about the role of technology, but also around the types of technology utilised, the importance of implementation processes and the challenges of upskilling. Underlying many of the barriers and enablers of success in an ever evolving digital context is the issue of training and support. While the question of how to most effectively empower staff with the knowledge and skills to feel confidence and capable online is not a unique challenge to social care, it one which is growing in significance and requires sector-wide attention. What is both clear and reassuring from the research, is the need to focus on the human aspect of technology and the positive impact of informed and open conversations.
This report provides useful insights for other local authorities and organisations supporting looked after young people, to take a critical review of their own digital provision including the full range of risks and opportunities.