Cultivating digital citizenship among youth and parents at Twitter NeighborNest

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

It all started with a workshop request: the San Francisco Department of Children Youth and Families (@SF_DCYF) sent a survey to grantees asking what type of projects or service opportunities grantees would like to ask of Twitter employees. United Playaz (UP) completed the survey with a request for a workshop about responsible social networking and from there, a partnership was born!

United Playaz (@UP4Life) is a violence prevention and leadership development organization committed to providing youth with positive role models and activities to engage in as an alternative to involvement with gangs, drugs and other high risk behaviors.

For the past few years, Twitter’s @Safety team has conducted internet safety workshops with UP youth and staff during Twitter for Good company-wide days of service. The basis of these workshops has since evolved into a series at the NeighborNest covering anti-bullying and reputation management. UP and Twitter staff met many times adapting and building on content from various sources including Common Sense Media (@CommonSense), to make sure that the message and approach are not fear-based but instead focus on cultivating community.

Twitter has been enthusiastic to respond to the great need among young people to not only develop their digital literacy skills but to understand how to be safe and responsible online. In these digital citizenship workshops, we have created a safe environment for meaningful conversation about young people’s individual experiences, concerns and ideas. In the past year and a half, the digital citizenship curriculum has been delivered to UP after-school participants and students of Bessie Carmichael K-8 School, as well as teens from Hamilton Families (@HamFamSF).

Working together has been a valuable collaboration with Twitter taking on the role of content specialist and UP leading the charge as the youth development specialist. Using this approach builds more trust with workshop participants, leverages everyone’s strengths, and allows for more dynamic interactions between adults and youth participants. After each workshop, we have made improvements to the format and materials based on feedback and the ebbs and flows of the conversation. It has also become apparent that there is an unmet need for parents and youth educators to be educated in the elemental areas of digital citizenship. What started as work with youth, has branched out to creating parallel conversations with parents and youth educators to make sure that both sides are speaking the same language when it comes to online activities and social media use. The creation of the parent workshop began with a few focus groups and will be launched officially on our #TwitterForGood day of service this December.

I have been extremely touched by the impact these workshops have had on local youth. Many have opened up about their own lives, demonstrating strength in using the tools and information learned in the workshops. A few parents who participated in the focus groups recently shared what they learned with other parents through their parent-teacher organization. It was an inspiring moment to see parents empowered and sharing their knowledge with their peers. UP looks forward to continue to evolving the workshop content and format, exploring more topics based on identified needs, and reaching more teens and parents in the community. We live in such an interesting time. The internet has the unrivalled power to bring people closer, inspire global movements to make change happen, and to provide all of us with knowledge at our fingertips. We look forward to bringing to life that potential in partnership with Twitter.