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Digital skillsEducation

Included: how to support young people who face disadvantage to thrive online

A young girl leans over her notebook to type something on a laptop in front of her.

Catch22 and Avast Foundation are united in believing every young person deserves the opportunity to thrive online. Together, we set out to explore how to effectively support young people who face disadvantage, and are often marginalised, to thrive online.

Thanks to funding from the Avast Foundation, we designed a six-month exploratory research and early-stage innovation project to better understand young people’s experiences and develop ideas and recommendations for programmes or services that would effectively support them to thrive online.

“Thriving online” is a positive and holistic way to think about online experiences. It encompasses lots of aspects that are often seen as separate – such as:

  • staying safe from online harms
  • knowing what to do if something upsetting happens online
  • being able to make the most of the opportunities on offer to expand life horizons
  • digital access
  • digital skills

This report shares the findings, in which we particularly focus on – and are led by – the needs and experiences of one cohort: 16-24-year-olds, who have been excluded from mainstream education. This cohort faces multiple and complex social barriers, which can make it challenging for them to thrive both in life and online. Despite this, they are regularly overlooked by policymakers and those developing and delivering programmes and services. They are left out of conversations about online experiences.

We want to change this. We see the publication of this report, sharing what we learned from this exploratory research and early-stage innovation project, as a crucial first step towards this change.

This research also allowed us to build out our understanding of how to effectively engage young people who face disadvantage into five principles. To illustrate these principles, we collated concrete examples and case studies from other organisations, as well as our own testing and learning with young people. From this, we were able to create a ‘Top Tips’ guide that we hope will be of practical use to all individuals and organisations delivering online programmes and services to young people facing disadvantage – whether these programmes / services take place partially or fully online.