Working with young learners

Image: Young person working on a laptop displaying a Google search of "social media" images.

Photo courtesy of Signal Film and Media

Research statistics show a need for young people to receive digital support. About 300 thousand young people lack digital skills and 700 thousand young people lack access to computer or tablet at home.

Young people who are already vulnerable are more likely to be digitally excluded.

Image : messy graphic with text Biggest Issue

Assumptions made about young people, and by young people, about their digital skills

Find out about the skills of the young people you are working with and design activities which support new skills

  • Confidence/competency as often young people cannot do basic digital tasks. A young person may appear digitally confident (for instance on proficiency with posting on social media) but may need support with many other digital skills, especially understanding privacy settings
  • Understanding the issues for individual young people, as there are often niche reasons for non-involvement/engagement with digital skills
  • Young people will not acknowledge their lack of digital skills for shame/fear/stigma
  • Young people may have limited access to the internet (e.g. only through a smartphone) so may not be able to readily access all services or opportunities online
  • Work environments (for instance, insecure and low paid work) do not include using digital devices and limit digital skills
  • Insecure employment status
  • Older people in their lives having negative experiences with technology can then affect young people’s attitudes
  • Staff may not have the confidence, skill level or support available to engage on digital topics

Image Title = Top tips for what to teach young people. 
Image graphic = Jigsaw pieces graphic, with text stating 
- C.V. writing
- Basic digital skills
- How to budget
- Microsoft Office
- Social media privacy
- Online safety

Image Title = Top tips for digital champions
Image graphic = Jigsaw pieces graphic, with text stating 
- Build trust
- Have fun
- Be engaging
- Keep it informal
- Agree goals
- Make no assumptions

Image Title = Top tips for projects involving young people. Image graphic = Jigsaw pieces graphic, with text stating - Make no assumptions - Co-design service with young people - Provide equipment - Use activities/ digital by stealth

Make no assumptions
– do not assume that the young people have basic skills
– do not assume that young people have access to digital devices
– do not assume that young people recognise their lack of digital skills
– young people may be very proficient in a few select areas like social media

Co-design service with young people
– include young people when you are designing your digital services
– listen to them when they tell you what will, or will not, work in your local area

Provide equipment
– some young people do not have access to digital devices
– provide equipment for them to use, or to borrow, to support learning
– consider using grant funding to give equipment to financially disadvantaged young people

Digital by stealth! is the fun term coined for embedding digital skills into fun activities
– embed digital activities into existing youth work or services
– design activities around young people’s interests which encourages learning new digital skills
– focus on what young people want to achieve and the part that digital can play in helping them to achieve this goal


Research, reports and publications

Always remember that learners may not be typical of their group and may have multiple additional needs => Look at the other guides for tips and resources

Many thanks to our partners UK Youth and Carnegie UK who contributed to developing the learning on this topic