ideas, innovations and apps for social work in the age of smartphones and social media 

Stop talking about THE digital media! Theses from the Cyberwork Conference in Germany

Today my colleague Timo Nicklaus and me are attending the Cyberwork Conference in Bremen/Germany. The key note by Jöran Muuß-Merholz on „Educational work in the age of web 2.0“ made a good start discussing 10 theses on social media. Here are the three theses we found to be the most interesting for social workers.

That’s all yesterday’s news!

“New technology, smartphones, internet, etc. have too much negative influence on young people: bullying, pornography, violence…” this is probably one of the most spread topics which comes up when parents or youth worker discuss the influence of internet, social media and smartphones on children. However, demonizing modern developments isn’t something new. Already in the 18th century a discussion about the negative side-effects of uncontrolled reading was started. The term “Lesesucht” (reading mania) was used to warn priests, teachers and “well educated parents” to leave literature careless to their children. The people worried that extensive reading could spoil a whole generation resulting in useless desire, phantasy or pleasure guided dreamers.

Stop talking about THE digital media!

Jöran Muuß-Merholz

There is such a wide range of tools and services in the world of digital technology, especially social media and smartphones that the term „the digital media“ in not focussed enough. If you want to discuss the pros and cons of certain digital media start by naming exactly what you’re talking about. Which tool, which service of which network … Otherwise everything will get mixed up and the discussion will become meaningless. Talking about the risk of using “digital media” is like talking about the risk of using “paper” – what kind of use do you mean exactly?

Losing control will go on!

If you want to use the different possibilities todays smartphones offer in education you will have to let go the idea of controlling the way the devices are used. You will get lost if you want the young people to use the camera only but not the internet access or to use the internet access for research only but not for Facebook also. As todays device seem to be digital Swiss Army Knives you can’t get one function without a ton of others. But not just the functions used tend to widen the control range in work with young people. The same process can be seen as you look at the content. There is less control about what young people share on the internet (or where, how and why). It ends up in the say „They’ll talk about you – with or without you!“.

What does this tell social workers about the actual discussion on the usage of new technology concerning children and young people? Share your thoughts in the comments.


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Lutz Siemer

Lutz Siemer

Education, Research & Development in Social Work & IT After working as an alternative practitioner and psychotherapist in private practice for nearly ten years I stepped over to higher education in 2005. At Saxion University of Applied Sciences I lecture and do research and development in the area of Social Work, Psychology and IT. Currently I'm focussing on merging mobile technology and social work.

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