On 3rd December, Catch22, and Redthread, supported by Google.org, held a launch event for The Social Switch Project at the Google offices in St Pancras Square. We brought together Government, businesses, charities and young people to ask the question: what can we all do to help tackle youth violence through social media?
Our brilliant panel which included staff from both charities, representatives from Google and Facebook, and a young person, tackled the topic from a range of viewpoints. This varied panel provided many insights into the risks and opportunities that social media holds for young people impacted by, or at risk of, serious violence.
Franklyn Addo, Team Leader at Redthread’s Youth Violence Intervention Programme and panel member stressed:
“Technology is the future and it can’t just be about relentlessly censoring. It must be about educating young people and ourselves about how to use it sensibly so that we can safeguard them appropriately.”
Likewise, Caroline Hurst, Safety Policy Programmes Manager for Facebook agreed:
“There isn’t a divide at all between the online world and the offline world” and that “youth violence] is a wider issue of society that we are seeing being played out on social media” and therefore we must keep talking about the issues that young people are facing.”
Jennoir Sims, a young person who has received support from Redthread reminded us:
“We need to show young people more positive opportunities that are available from social media, such as job opportunities and creative opportunities. There is so much out there online and we need to promote this positivity.”
Not only did we have a panel of experts to kick off the discussion, but the event closed with a presentation from the first cohort of young people who have been trained, through The Social Switch Project, as Social Media Managers. These young people are learning the skills needed to use social media in a productive way – leading them into meaningful careers in creative industries. The panel of young people were inspiring and informed – demonstrating the importance of keeping young people at the heart of this issue and the positive contribution they can make to the online space when given the opportunity.
This event was an example of the many open and frank conversations that The Social Switch Project hopes to spark in order for us all to gain a better understanding of the role we can play in helping young people navigate online spaces and have positive and safe experiences online.