The way we support young people has changed over the years. It used to be that young people would find their way to the Centre and sit down and talk with a worker. They would maybe come just once, come down regularly for some time or just appear when they felt the need. Now, while some of that still happens, most support happens differently now.
Now, a support worker can be anywhere, doing anything and an email or text pings onto the phone. Instantly, the worker can read about a problem a young person is having, or a young person is looking for a chat. It’s the same with social media with the possibility of instant chat available. All this is wonderful as young people can get pretty instant help or someone to talk to at times to suit them, and it can be highly confidential too, but it has it’s downside.
Talking through typing can easily lead to misunderstanding. The lack of commas, full stops and other such things that can help someone make sense of meaning, can mean big misunderstandings. So too with text talk, easy to type and easier to misunderstand. Being readily available can also lead to problems when you are, for one reason on not, suddenly unavailable. A crisis can develop all too quickly for a young person, and if they are used to having someone only a text away, and that person is missing. It can feel like a real let down. I try to make sure that all the young people I talk to, know that I can’t always be there and let them know what times I am more likely to be there.
Another issue with talking this way is that I sometimes feel like the invisible person in the room. I can have a young person telling me all about the family. Whose saying and doing what to whom, and the only person who knows that I know everything, is the young person. Bit of an invasion of privacy really. I even get videos, recordings and pictures from inside people’s homes. The good part of this, for the young person, is that if they are living in an abusive situation, they are able to share what is going on for them and get help.
I get the young people to teach me how to use all these new ways of communicating. Let’s face it, without their help it would be impossible. I wonder what the next 20 years will bring?