Technological development and digitalisation impact society and the lives of young people in many ways. Indeed, one of the focus areas of youth work is to support the growth and development of young people in an increasingly digital world. Youth work also plays an important role in closing the digital divide and promoting digital agency.
Digital youth work is based on the idea that new technology must be utilised in youth work to make services and activities intended for young people better, more accessible and more meaningful. Digital youth work can be used to create opportunities and spaces for young people to develop their critical, ethical and creative thinking related to technological development and the digital future.
Digital youth work is focused on digitalising the youth work sector and the practices within. Digital youth work is not a separate discipline or method within youth work, but rather something intertwined with all areas of youth work. Digital youth work can, for example, be implemented in the context of cultural youth work, youth participation, youth information and counselling, open youth work or outreach work – in other words, any and all forms of youth work.
At its best, digital youth work links seamlessly with other youth work performed by the organisation and the related goals.
According to the EU expert group on ‘Risks, opportunities and implications of digitalisation for youth, youth work and youth policy’ (2018) digital youth work:
- means proactively using or addressing digital media and technology in youth work
- is not a youth work method – digital youth work can be included in any youth work setting (open youth work, youth information and counselling, youth clubs, outreach youth work, etc.)
- has the same goals as youth work in general, and using digital media and technology in youth work should always support these goals
- can happen in face-to-face situations as well as in online environments – or in a mixture of these two. Digital media and technology can be either a tool, an activity or content in youth work
- is underpinned by the same ethics, values and principles as youth work.