“I wish these topics would be more discussed in the whole society…”, and “This is so important for everyone. Such program should be organised in the schools…”, are just two of the many positive feedbacks we received during the #PreventGBV project. As the project ends, it is time to look back and evaluate.
At the end of this month, the #PreventGBV project will end. During the last two years, we have developed the local partnership; the manual on selected topics of online violence for youth workers or other professionals working with children and youth; and we also piloted activities from the manual with young people in 3 areas across Finland. We implemented activities with 15 young people in Helsinki, Jyväskylä and Kajaani with an average age of 22,8 years. 6 of the participants were cis* men, 5 cis* women, 1 trans* man and 3 other gendered participants.
The pilots and topics covered during the workshops with young people were overall positively evaluated. The feedback that we received from the young people reflected the theoretical concepts introduced in the workshop but also the importance of the topics of online violence and social media usage in general:
“This was a very interesting exercise (intersectionality). I had no idea, that the certain characteristics (social categories) and the combination of them can have such an impact in our lives…”
“I didn’t know what does this term (hegemonic masculinity) means before. I just knew, I don’t fit into the expectations what men should look like or how he should behave. I am very sensitive and talk about my feelings…”
Across the partnership were also evaluated the learning outcomes. Participants were asked to evaluate how much they learned about certain topics, such as strategies to avoid online violence, what are gender stereotypes, that stalking and controlling others online is not normal, etc. Young people used 3-point scale (1-I haven’t yet learnt, 2-I learnt a lot, 3-I had known a lot already). The score 2,27 indicates that young people have learnt a lot about these topics, and some of them already had a lot of knowledge about the covered topics.
What have we learnt in the process?
- The topic of online behaviour and violence is very actual in the young people’s lives. Almost every young person who participated in our activities has experienced disturbing online behaviour. Some of them have behaved violently online themselves.
- Young people often have no one with whom they can discuss these topics. They feel, the parents or other adults do not necessary understand what is happening online and they might not be able to assess the impact of online violence on young people. The online behaviour is often being belittled.
- The online violence or online behaviour are not typically the topics present in youth work. Youth workers do not pro-actively open these topics. Young people would appreciate if professionals open up the discussion, as young people might not know how to talk about these issues.
- The education is needed – for all different target groups, such as children, young people, their parents and professionals working with them. The topic is broad and every one of these groups is in need for more information. How to recognised violence online? How to deal with manipulative behaviour? How to protect boundaries online? How to support children and young people in a safer usage of social media? How to manage online appearance? What is the actual legislation? When the police should be involved?
- If something wrong happens online, it can have various impacts on young people, e.g., shut the young person up; cause challenges regarding mental health, feeling of safety, problems related to self-esteem; re-traumatisation and much more. The young people need help of adults to deal with their feelings and support them in difficulties.
- Young people must be part of the solution. Their knowledge and experience can be used for good purposes – to educate others, to peer support activities, to the public actions etc.
As a conclusion, we would like to encourage all the workers with children and youths to start conversations and activities related to the online violence, safer internet and social media usage. You do not have to be the expert already, but you can learn in the process.