The European Guidelines for Digital Youth Work highlight how digital transformation is impacting society and young people’s lives in many ways. Their definition of how digital youth work can play a role highlights the following components:
- How digitalisation has the capacity to transform the European youth work sector and its work with young people;
- How the sector can positively harness and deploy the tools of digital media and technologies within youth work practice;
- How a wide range of methods and approaches that include digital technologies, can be deployed in any youth work setting;
- How digital youth work ethics, values and principles are the same as those found within generic youth work practice;
- How digital youth work can take place within online and digital contexts as well as face-to-face.
In 2015, the EU member states published the Declaration of the 2nd European Youth Work Convention where it was identified that within emerging practice, there was a role for youth workers to support young people’s use of new technologies and digital media, as well as the development of digital literacy competencies. This document identifies young people as innovation-minded and the receptive to change, and caused the Estonian presidency of the Council of the EU to seek recognition of young people’s ‘habitus’ within the digital world. Alongside this, transformative ideas about the role of youth workers were promoted with the Council’s conclusions on smart youth work being adopted in 2017. Examples of practice can be found in SALTO PI’s Resource Pool.
Smart youth work embodies all the principles bulleted above and recognises the role of transformative and innovative practice as driven by young people’s voices, interests and needs. Smart youth work practice encourages young people to develop a creative, agile, and critical approach to digital technologies in their future work and everyday lives. The Council states that smart youth work provides:
“…access to information and enriching opportunities for enhancing one’s personal capabilities and competences; providing opportunities for connectivity and interaction with others but also for voicing one’s opinions, for creativity, for the self-realisation of one’s rights and active citizenship.”