Cymraeg

Over the last year, we have worked with the Welsh Government to develop bespoke advice specifically for children and young people to support them with any online issues or worries they're experiencing. This is now available on the Keeping safe online area of Hwb.

We were excited to get involved in this project. At ProMo-Cymru we strive to ensure that young people are informed, engaged, connected and heard. We have over 20 years of experience in delivering digital youth information projects.

We passionately believe that any information aimed at our children and young people needs to be co-constructed with them and shaped by their feelings, opinions and experiences. Our experience running the Meic helpline (for children and young people up to the age of 25 in Wales) has shown us that young people can often find themselves in unsafe and upsetting situations online. That's why we felt strongly from the outset that a key part of this work should focus on empowering young people to safely deal with an issue and to get help when they need it.

Our approach

The first step of the work was to arrange focus groups with children and young people across Wales. We carried out six focus groups with 53 young people aged 9 to 15. We wanted to find out their understanding of some key online issues, any common experiences, understanding the terms and language (including slang) that they use, how they typically deal with issues, where they turn to for help, and any barriers they may have to seeking help.

We explored ten online safety issues, ranging from online bullying to sharing nudes to offensive content; we brought them to life by developing scenario stories or asking varied questions to encourage discussion and engagement. We had multiple-choice votes with follow up discussions, agree/disagree statements, a drawing tool, pros and cons lists, scenario stories and open-ended questions such as 'How do you think he might have felt after watching the video?'

We created a presentation on Google Jamboard, a virtual whiteboard tool to gather information in a fun way. The benefits were that it could be accessed on any internet-connected device, and people could collaborate and see updates in real-time. They could add comments anonymously, helping to gain honest and valuable contributions, and comments could be added without needing to put their hands up or participate in group discussions. It encouraged young people who were not as confident to participate and have their voices heard.

A snapshot of the discussions

Example question: Is your social media set to private or public?

We received many different responses to this, and they varied according to the platform. Instagram was largely private, while TikTok and YouTube weren't. This was largely due to how the platforms work and whether or not they want the content to be seen by strangers.

One young person said, "I'm not setting it to be private. I want to be YouTube famous!" while another gave a more cautionary tale, "This guy on Instagram lives in Cardiff, I don't know him, he followed me on Instagram and I blocked him. I don't know why he followed me!"

Example scenario: 

Dafydd is 13 and is browsing through TikTok when he sees lots of reaction videos of people watching someone self-harming.

 

The people filming the reaction videos look really shocked and Dafydd is really curious about what they are watching. People have shared the link to the original video. 

Dafydd clicks on the link. 

The young people admitted that things like this were quite common on their social media feeds. This prompted a detailed discussion around algorithms, and there was a clear understanding that clicking on these types of links meant that you would see more of the same on your feeds. "It's curiosity killed the cat – the more you click the more you see."

This is only a sample of the questions asked, but the feedback to these, as well as the other online issues that we explored, gave us valuable insight into the motivations behind many young people's online behaviours. It also reaffirmed that while we can guide children and young people, there will be times when things go wrong. It is vital that they know that they can get help with anything worrying them online.

Getting help

We were interested to find out what websites or services young people would currently go to get help as this would inform us how they preferred to get their information. Although answers listed included the Police, NSPCC, etc., there were not many replies to this question. Many of them said that they would talk to someone rather than look for information themselves, whether this was talking to a friend, parent, teacher, or someone else. This information led us to create a guide on how to start a conversation to share a problem. We asked advisers from the Meic helpline (ran by ProMo-Cymru and Welsh Government funded) to create tips for a blog posted on the Meic website. This blog is signposted as the first link under 'Where to go for help' on all the pages.

Social media apps survey

We also took the opportunity to find out what social media, apps and platforms are most popular. Unsurprisingly, TikTok was the most popular app across all workshops. Instagram remained hugely popular, especially with ages 13+. Snapchat was equally popular, especially with 11–13-year-olds. Twitter was only popular with the older groups. Other responses included YouTube, WhatsApp, Twitch, Reddit, Spotify, Soundcloud, Apple Podcast, Discord, Facebook Messenger, Wattpad, Ao3, Pinterest and Tumblr.

Designing the advice

We gathered all the information from the focus groups. Our content team started developing the advice for the different sections using their expert knowledge and researching various services and information that could be signposted. The content team at ProMo-Cymru includes young people under 25, meaning that young people were also involved in writing the content.

Once the information sections were complete, we asked for feedback from the focus groups. It was clear that young people responded well to clearly structured, easy to read information and a visual experience.

Taking that into account, we're really pleased with the new 'Advice for children and young people: online issues and worries' area on Hwb. We hope this will be a valuable resource for young people and encourage you to take a look.


Andrew Collins, ProMo-Cymru

An English graduate with significant experience in communications, content management and digital marketing, Andrew has been working in this environment for a number of years. He has qualifications in Google Analytics, AdWords and partner status for Google Non-Profit. He also recently gained a CMI Level 4 Award in Management and Leadership. Previously, Andrew worked as a secondary school English teacher and has qualified teacher status.